LIFF – Movie Review: Under the Shadow


Director: Babak Anvari

Writer: Babak Anvari

Stars: Narges Rashidi, Avin Manshadi

Verdict: Good enough

So we’ve had Under the Skin, and that film was quite disturbing, I wonder if what’s under the shadow will be any better?

Given how excited I was for Under the Shadow, it’s a shame I’m not more into it, I was actually kind of disappointed, I mean it is very very good, but 98% on Rotten Tomatoes good? I don’t think so. 

The film is actually the British entry for best foreign language film, and in a way congratulations to the UK in the same congratulations to Austria for putting forward Goodnight Mommy piece of crap that that was. For a horror film, Under the Shadow actually has a pretty good chance. If you look at the horror films that have done well at the Oscars, especially the famous ones, like Black Swan, The Silence of the Lambs, Jaws, and Rosemary’s Baby, they’re not really horror films, I mean they all have elements of that horror films; Black Swan is really a drama/thriller A Woman Under the Influence, A Streetcar Named Desire style woman-unravelling movie that references all these body horrors and giallos; Jaws is pretty tense and scary but it’s also pretty tame, and if you look at all the films that reference Jaws are any of them really scary horror films? No, they’re mostly either monster movies of they’re PiranhaUnder the Shadow is a horror film, but it’s not particularly scary. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to like about it. 

For a start, and I know everyone’s said this, I really love the politics of it. It makes a real cogent argument for some more nuanced and complicated points about what’s the proper feminist thing to do around certain things, and it also highlight certain issues women were facing in the 1980s that they still face today. It’s also very anti-war, and despite the fact it’s a British film takes from Iranian folk lore in a way that means the ghost isn’t zombies or a poltergeist or something and it’s really fresh. It does still fit into a very long western tradition of peadophobic horror films like The Exorcist. There’s something I find really fascinating about the way western horror traditions interacts with foreign horror traditions but that’s just a particular button of mine. A good example is the recently reviewed Train to Busan, which I also saw at the LIFF. (Review here). It also has a really well established threat, helped by some very good structurally sound writing. The design of the creature itself is also great and it’s also nihilistic in a way that I quite enjoy and that reinforces the themes of the movie. 

That being said I just wasn’t scared goddamn it. It has obnoxious jump scares, that being said in the way of Sinister recently they’re not cattle prod scares, they serve a purpose and reinforce the underlying threat of the film, however they’re still irritating as fuck. There are sequences that are engaging and I cared for the characters but, a) there’s a major fucking plot hole that irritates the shit out of me b) over reliance on dream sequences c) this guy doesn’t know how to scare me other than going boo! 

I feel like this film is rocking that 98% on it’s politics alone. 

Must try harder. 


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