Under the Shadow
“The first great horror movie of the year” – Eric Kohn, INDIEWIRE
“The feminist horror film that scared Sundance silly” – Nigel M. Smith, THE GUARDIAN
Tehran, 1988. Eight years into the devastating Iran-Iraq conflict. Amidst the ever-present threat of sudden destruction, Shideh (an incredible Narges Rashidi) is desperately trying to keep her family sane, a difficult task which becomes nearly impossible when her husband is conscripted into battle and sent directly into the front lines. Alone with her daughter Dorsa, Sideh’s strength is challenged even further when a missile crashes through the ceiling of their apartment, killing a neighbour yet miraculously failing to detonate. It soon becomes clear that the projectile’s arrival has brought something else with it. A terrifying djinn may be stalking Sideh’s building, its possession-hungry sights set firmly on her terrified daughter. More neighbours flee by the day, leaving Sideh and Dorsa increasingly on their own, trapped inside their apartment as their world spirals deeper and deeper into absolute horror.
A frightening descent into hell, UNDER THE SHADOW is a bold new leap in Persian-language cinema that repurposes the conventions of traditional genre storytelling into potent new form. Writer/director Babak Anvari deftly utilizes the anxiety of caring for loved ones, in a day-to-day reality where unimaginable ruination could erupt without warning, as a starting point for an emotionally pulverizing experience in fear that also functions as gripping sociopolitical commentary. Among the film’s many peaks is the vividness with which it conveys the dread of simply being a woman in Iran’s post-revolution regime. An extraordinary genre work in every sense, UNDER THE SHADOW will suck the air clean out of your lungs.
— Mitch Davis