Film Review: Under The Shadow

Under The Shadow

Babak Anvari’s Under The Shadow is an unnerving horror, which excels in the fear it generates. The film is a must-see for horror fans.

Shideh lives with her husband and daughter in post-Revolution Tehran. When her husband is called away, Shideh and daughter Dorsa face staying in their apartment alone in the war-torn city…

Under The Shadow is a masterclass is tension. Writer-director Babak Anvari has created a film that is genuinely unnerving, and that raises tension as it progresses. The brooding atmosphere breeds a memorable apprehension. The pacing of the film is excellent; momentum builds at a steady rate to the conclusion.

Under The Shadow is set in 1980s Tehran, against the backdrop of the post-Revolution war between Iran and Iraq. This setting is pivotal to the narrative, in terms of the situation Shideh finds herself in, the reason her husband is absent and the danger of their location. However, the film also uses this setting to its full potential in generating the frightening aspects of the film. Shideh is increasingly isolated in part due to her gender; something that limits her given the setting. Moreover, the frequent alerts and the situation of the neighbours adds a lot to the tension.

Horror in Under The Shadow is employed efficiently and effectively. The film walks the fine line between the fantastic and the rational. For a significant duration, it is unclear whether there are supernatural forces at play, or it is simply the setting and the behaviour of Dorsa that cause the disturbances. The lack of obvious special effects works to the film’s advantage; viewers are placed in a nervy but natural environment. The film manages to  maintain this climate of fear right up to its climax. The conclusion works well, even if one aspect is a little overblown. Narges Rashidi delivers a solid performance as Shideh, whilst Avin Manshadi is believable as Dorsa.

Under The Shadow is one of this year’s best horror films, and a reminder of how effective this genre can be.