Monday, May 22, 2017

Film Review: Under The Shadow (2016)

Under The Shadow (Review)
United Kingdom/Jordan/Qatar/2016
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...emotionally effective, unnervingly tense, and frighteningly relevant."

When her husband is shipped out to war, a mother struggles to raise her daughter in war-torn Tehran, especially when a malevolent entity arrives in her home...

Under The Shadow is a great movie. The plot starts off as a tragic family drama. In war-torn post-revolution Tehran, Shideh (Narges Rashidi) is stopped from continuing her studies as a medical student due to her involvement with leftist groups. She is forced to return home to her husband, who is practicing medicine, and her daughter, Dorsa. Shideh's life becomes more stressful when her husband is called to war. This is where the film seamlessly transitions to a chilling horror movie. Shideh attempts to take care of Dorsa, living every day with the fear of missiles hitting her building. And, when Dorsa's doll goes missing, things start going bump in the night. She slowly begins to believe a Djinn is haunting her home. It leads to an interesting, albeit somewhat underwhelming, ending.

Aside from the ending, which isn't actually bad, I don't really have many complaints for this film. Under The Shadow works very well as a horror-drama hybrid. It creates deep and interesting characters. The main plot is familiar—we've seen different variations of this before—but its underlying themes and its setting differentiate it from the rest of the pack. It's still not the most original movie out there, but it is a very effective one. The setting especially caught my interest. It's mostly confined to a single apartment building, but the war background really adds to the tension. This isn't the type of horror film that relies on jump-scares, either. The horror is based off its atmosphere and its tension. There's a masterful sense of paranoia and isolationism during the second half of the film.

The acting was also great. Narges Rashidi performs very well as the leading lady, showing a wide range of emotions. Avin Manshadi, the child actress, also delivered a great performance. The film was shot well. The use of music is limited, but it works out. There are some special effects that aren't great, but, fortunately, the special effects are limited to a few scenes. The film was written and directed by Babak Anvari. Anvari uses a familiar 'ghost' story, injects it with a rarely explored culture and surrounds it with a compelling setting, and delivers a very effective film.

Overall, Under the Shadow is a great movie. The film is emotionally effective, unnervingly tense, and frighteningly relevant. It has a few issues, like the underwhelming/slapdash ending, but it's worth a watch. I'm disappointed that I let this film fly under my radar for so long. Check it out.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Some frightening images. Nothing over PG-13.

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