Under the Shadow (2016)

under the shadow poster 2016 movie
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 8/10

Layered story and good cast

Could have even been longer and explored the djinn more

Movie Info

Movie Name: Under the Shadow

Studio: Wigwam Films

Genre(s): Horror/Drama

Release Date(s):  January 22, 2016 (Sundance)/October 7, 2016 (US)

MPAA Rating: PG-13

under the shadow djinn

I’m no Robin Williams (or even Will Smith for that matter)

Tehran in the 1980s is under attack.  The War of the Cities has the people living in fear and the changes in the regime have caused people to change their lives.  Once planning to be a doctor, Shideh (Narges Rashidi) finds herself unable to return to graduate school due to her political activism and now raising a daughter named Dorsa (Avin Manshadi) with her husband Iraj (Bobby Naderi).  When Iraj is drafted, Shideh tries to decide if she will leave their home or try to remain in the city.  An attack leaves the building in peril, but Shideh begins to notice that something else might have arrived with the bomb…something almost unstoppable.

Written and directed by Babak Anvari, Under the Shadow (زیر سایه‎ or Zeer-e sāye) is a supernatural thriller.  The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and received positive reviews.

under the shadow arrest for indecency scene narges rashidi

When reality is just as dangerous as a house full of demonic djinn

There is a lot going on in Under the Shadows and it is all wrapped in a horror film.  While a lot of issue driven movies are either crowded out by the issues or don’t make their point, the film manages to deftly explore many ideas and concepts while wrapping it in a nice supernatural horror film.

The cover of the movie is horror.  Djinns are the ghosts of the film and the ghosts are trying to take control of Dorsa and Shidek.  The djinns must possess something of the people and with that, they essentially “own” them.  This is layered on top of a story about a woman’s place in society in Iran at the time.  Shidek is owned.  She can’t practice medicine, is talked down to as a woman, and is almost punished when caught outside without a hijab while trying to protect her daughter (who she struggles to connect with).  Add on top of all those problems, Shidek and Dorsa are literally under the shadow of war and living day-to-day not knowing if a bomb will fall on them.

Narges Rashidi is great in the role.  She doesn’t hate her child but there does seem to be resentment there.  Her daughter’s a “Daddy’s girl”, and is too young to understand what her mother (partially) sacrificed for her which makes things even worse.  All of the emotion is forced to the top for Rashidi’s character, and Rashidi handles it well.  Likewise, Avin Manshadi feels like a solid child actor and the two work well together.

under the shadow monster djinn

Don’t you hate it when your daughter turns into a giant mouth…and she needs braces

The movie is pretty subtle.  There are a few good jump scares and the appearance of the djinn is that of a faceless woman (further amplifying the idea of a “kept” woman).  The horror when it is done is done well and I almost wish the movie had pushed it a little farther by making the film longer.

Under the Shadows is a good movie for people a large audience including people who don’t like horror movies.  Some of the themes and the style of the movie remind me of The Babadook which also explores the relationship between a mother and their child.  I always like checking out horror in other countries because some ideas are universal while other aspects of horror are rather specific to the location.  While I’d never endorse a sequel (or even worse a remake), the movie is left a little open ended…but Shideh and her daughter’s lives could already be set in stone.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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