A small subset of the horror genre has been receiving a lot of critical praise recently and it’s made up of movies from Iranian filmmakers. 2015’s A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, a black and white Vampire Western hybrid scored to 80’s style synth music, is probably the most famous of the bunch. It’s certainly one of the most original movies I’ve ever seen and I enjoyed it quite a bit (currently streaming on Netflix).
Under the Shadow by first time director Babak Anvari was 2016’s entrant to this subset. Set in war torn Iran in 1988, a sinister, eerie presence is lurking in the apartment Shideh shares with her small daughter. Like it’s predecessor it was adored by critics upon release, warranting a 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes (out of 65 votes), however it is not one that Rated Greg would recommend. It’s hard to put into words but some very scary movies are really fun to watch (i.e. The Conjuring) while other very scary movies are just too distressing to enjoy (i.e. The Babadook). I don’t know exactly where the line is but I would put Under the Shadow in the Babadook bucket.
I will say that there’s a non-horror subplot to this film that I did find pretty compelling. The early part of Under the Shadow features Shideh growing more and more frustrated about the cultural shackles put on her and the other women in Tehran at the time. It’s a story you read about but never really see put on the screen. An entire movie could have been made about Shideh’s back story but that’s not the point I guess. Once things started going bump in the night I found Under the Shadow to be an unpleasant watch, though I understand why it got good reviews from others. Grade: D