Under the Shadows (2016)
Written By: Karla Cortes
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
Director: Babak Anvari
Producers: Emily Leo, Oliver Roskill, et. al.
Writers: Babak Anvari
United States (Sundance) – January 23 2016
United Kingdom – September 30 2016
Narges Rashidi as Shideh
Avin Manshadi as Dorsa
Bobby Naderi as Iraj
Ray Haratian as Mr. Ebrahimi
Arash Marandi as Dr. Reza
Aram Ghasemy as Mrs. Ebrahami
Saussan Farrokhnia as Mrs. Fakur
Behi Djanati Atai as Pargol
Hamidreza Djavdan as Mr. Fakur
Karam Rashayda as Mehdi
Rating = 2/5 Graves
***May contain some spoilers***
Under the Shadow centers around Shideh (Narges Rashidi), Iraj (Bobby Naderi), and Dorsa (Avin Manshadi), a family living in Tehran 1988 at the high of the Iran-Iraq war. The family is under immense stress when Shideh is unable to return to her medical studies due to past political activism and Iraj is drafted as a war doctor at the same time, leaving Shideh to care for Dorsa alone. After a dormant bomb strikes the apartment building, a demon is released into the building. The demon finds its way to Dorsa, taking her favorite doll and essentially taking hold of Dorsa’s well being. The mother and daughter face constant obstacles as they try to find the dolls in order to release Dorsa from demons known as Djinn and essentially escape the town from war.
The film has no gore in it whatsoever. The film is centered more towards the paranormal, and tricks that the mind can play on an individual. Suspense and fear is the center point of the film rather than blood and guts when it comes to horror.
The Grave Review
Under the Shadow is a tricky film to fully appreciate in terms of horror. If the film was not classified under horror, but more as a feminist thriller perfectly depicting the height of the Iran-Iraq war, then it would receive a high review. The problem with Under the Shadow is that it
focused more on the situation of war, family struggles, political sexism, and female empowerment more so than fear factors. Sure, it’s quite frightening to see “strangers” roaming your home and to have your daughter break into manic episodes over a said demon, but these are
typical elements of a horror film that date back to the 80s. Nothing new, to say the least. The way that the demon was introduced was also a bit underwhelming. Anvari had the Djinn, demonic spirits mentioned in the Quran that “poses” people by taking a personal object, arrive through a bomb that failed to explode within the apartment building. This wasn’t a very creative way of introducing the demon into the lives of Dorsa and Shideh, especially since bombs don’t usually bring the paranormal. It seems as though Anvari forcefully tried to mix war with the paranormal in a way that didn’t make much sense and is almost too fictional to even be frightened by in the slightest.
Aside from this, the demon itself wasn’t depicted in such a frightening way either. A dark shadow wearing a bed sheet isn’t really doing it for horror enthusiasts. The real horror in the film was not the paranormal, but the horror of war and sexist regime. Anvari should have either
focused entirely on the family within times of war instead of trying to make this a horror film by including the paranormal. The final aspect of the film that didn’t quite click was the fact that Shideh, no matter how many warning signs she received even by her husband, refused to leave their home. Her stubbornness resulted in her character being depicted as ignorant and immature rather than a good mother protecting her daughter.
The film would receive one grave in terms of horror, but due to the cinematography, representation of war as well as the representation of talented female leads, problems within sexism, and Iran in general, Grave Reviews gives Under The Shadows (2016) two graves out of five graves.
Do you agree with our review of Under The Shadows (2016)? Comment below.
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