Director: Babak Anvari
Cast: Narges Rashidi, Bobby Naderi, Avin Manshadi
Running Time: 84 Minutes
Set to the backdrop of the Iran-Iraq war during the 1980’s, Babak Anvari’s Under the Shadow works to offer up much more than your average horror film. Taking a more mature route to its scare tactics, it opts to forgo the normal and deliver a more sophisticated scream fest for its viewers.
Anvari’s writing cannot be overlooked as it presents a unique story with a strong, driven female lead. Narges Rashidi plays Shideh, a woman who is hell-bent on going back to university for her doctorate. However, due to her past political activities, the university has denied her request for education. On the other side of the coin is Iraj, her husband. A doctor by trade, the two don’t always see eye-to-eye, causing friction in the household. But when Iraj is drafted, the two must put their odds at bay as Shideh refocuses her attention on their daughter Dorsa. Soon after Iraj leaves, strange and unexplainable things begin to happen, most of which revolve around Shideh and her doll.
If the battle between Iran and Iraq wasn’t enough, Shideh has another war waging inside due to the unequal opportunity for women. The title of the film represents a dual meaning: women being under the shadow of men and a mythical evil spirit known as djinn that haunts the apartment complex where our main protagonist resides. This is when the film is at its best, raising the feminist sentiments and having the djinn culminate the fear and anxiety that percolates down through Shideh’s veins. The only saving grace rests in Shideh’s workout videos. One can only imagine how bad it would be if she couldn’t work up a sweat with her prized Jane Fonda tapes.
Rashidi shines in the film, successfully creating a strong realistic character who will stop at nothing to overcome any obstacle that stands before her. I honestly felt like the film was stuck in a purgatory like state and slowly became more and more like Hell as the movie uncoiled. Under the Shadow beats all expectations and delivers a well crafted look into the psyche of a strong Farsi woman from Iran.