Under the Shadow review: ‘a ghostly chiller with well executed jumps and scares’

Under the Shadow.

Under the Shadow. - Credit: Archant

Under the Shadow, a ghostly chiller set during the Iran/ Iraq War, is one of the most unusual movies you’ll see all year

Under the Shadow, a ghostly chiller set during the Iran/ Iraq War, is one of the most unusual movies you’ll see all year. It’s also totally formulaic. Life in a Tehran apartment block in 1988 that is quickly becoming deserted as tenants flee the Iraqi missile bombardment, is not a subject I can recall another British director choosing for a debut feature. But its story about a family coming apart as a supernatural force takes over their child has been used in every other major scary movie of the last few years, as has the briefly-glimpsed-creepy-figures-in-the-dark style of tension.

The novel setting gives the film more leeway to leave the tension on a low heat for that bit longer. If you’re doing your conjuring act in a suburban gaff in Enfield, the impetus is to get on with it and start traumatising the kids as soon as possible. Here you can take your time and get to know the ins and outs of the relationship between the frustrated mother Shideh (Narges Rashidi) and her daughter Dorsa (Avin Manshadi). The jumps and scares are well executed and have a real impact, probably because we are so invested in this situation.

Shideh is clearly a figure who is sympathetic to the West – her medical studies were blocked by the cultural revolution, and she exercises to her Jane Fonda Workout tape on a hidden VCR player. When she is warned about the Djinn, malevolent supernatural creatures carried on the wind and mentioned in the Koran she dismisses it as fairy tale nonsense. When, as in western scary films, she is made to see the error of her rational, materialist dismissal of the spiritual, isn’t that an implicit vindication of religious extremism?

Rating: 4/5 stars

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