Set in the height the Iran/Iraq war, Babak Anvari’s Under the Shadow is not your typical horror film. The allegory-heavy tale manages to blend effective jump scares with a political backdrop that is even scarier.
As missiles fall around her everyday, Shideh (Narges Rashidi) refuses to leave Tehran with her daughter Dorsa (Avin Manshadi). With her husband insisting that they go stay with his parents outside of the city, yet Shideh refuses. Fighting the cultural confines of her womanhood, Shideh appreciates the freedoms she has in her own home. There, she walks around without a headscarf and is free to exercise in front of illegal Jane Fonda workout tapes. With her husband called back to the army, Shideh fights to protect her daughter and her sanity when a supposed Djinn begins to haunt their apartment complex.
The film bares many similarities to the 2014 horror hit The Babadook, which would make for a wonderful double feature. Like that film, here we have a strong female character questioning her sanity while under the influence of something evil. The subtext in The Babadook was one of its strongest aspects, be here things seem just a bit too obvious.
Nevertheless, the backdrop of war is what separates Under the Shadow from its colleagues. This is a film in which the threat of an impending missile is just as frightening as what lurks in the darkness of Shideh’s home. Though its ending does not quite sit right, Under the Shadow is a successfully obscure horror film worth checking out.