I had been following the recent festival news regarding "Under the Shadow", and shortly after it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival it was promptly acquired by Netflix.
The fact that Netflix snagged it right away from other major distributors should be a real indicator of how much of a winner this movie really is.
Most people will dismiss "Under the Shadow" right away after seeing the PG-13 rating. Don't. Give it a chance, and you won't regret it. This movie doesn't rely on cheap jump scares. The way the movie is paced, it actually lets the tension and intensity accumulate, little by little, and the scares that it delivers, although few in number, are guaranteed to leave a mark.
In one particular instance, everyone in the room screamed and almost jumped out of their seats, and I do mean *everyone*, and that goes to show how well the movie does in pulling everyone in.
Even though the story is set in the 1980s, a lot of themes are, coincidentally, a big deal nowadays, such as the usage of the veil by women, and how they're actually perceived/treated as inferior to and by men, when in reality they happen to be extremely strong characters on their own, driven by what they want to do and what they want to be, and not by what others expect of them.
The Djinn, the so-called "monster" in this movie, is nothing short of amazing given the story and the context, and he's not something you're likely to forget any time soon. I will, however, do the same thing that other reviewers and critics have done before me, and I won't say anything further on this "entity", besides the fact that it's an extremely refreshing, new and interesting concept for the whole "monster movie". Go see the movie, and hopefully you'll not only be surprised and amazed, but also equally terrified.
Narges Rashidi, who plays the mother (Shideh), has a strong and gripping role, but in my humble opinion it was actually Avin Manshadi who plays her daughter, Dorsa, the one who stole the show.
In general, people think of kids (in horror movies) as annoying, and all-around bad actors who just don't have it in them to actually act the part in what's supposed to be a scary, horrifying film. In a nutshell, Avin Manshadi blew me away. The way she delivered her lines, how she acted, the very different ways she looked at her mother given the context, how she looked at her surroundings, and the fact that her gaze also never looked at the "camera" or anything of the sort, that certainly elevated the movie to something else entirely.
It made the whole thing *actually* believable, which isn't always the case when you have a kid as a main protagonist. For an underage kid, and for her first role in anything EVER (according to IMDb), I can't begin to tell you how extremely HUGE her performance actually is.
In short, this movie has very strong performances, a believable dilemma set in a very real period of our history, and a plot that doesn't leave you hanging with even more questions by the end or a twist-ending, like how many/most films usually do nowadays.
Babak Anvari (Director) is definitely on my list of people to keep an eye out for, especially when you consider that this was his first feature film. Extremely impressive, and there's no doubt in my mind that this young director has a lot to offer to the world of filmmaking in general, although I'd very much like to see him tackle some more horror projects.
If you want to see a horror movie riddled with cheap jump scares that provide easy chuckles and giggles, this movie is not for you.
If you want to see a horror movie with lots of deaths, blood and violence, this movie is definitely not for you.
If, however, you are a true fan of the genre and are looking for something new, if you can actually look past the language barrier and want to see an actual plot that gradually evolves in a slow-burn kind of way (as opposed to watching the kind of horror movies where you can just "turn your brain off" and enjoy the mindless fun without giving it a second thought), then you should give this movie a chance, by all means.
If possible, you should watch this in theaters to really get the "experience", otherwise watching it at home won't probably pack the same kind of punch, but I guess everyone is different in that aspect. Just be sure to actually invest all of your senses when watching it!
Like I said, don't go expecting a gore-filled horror fest. This is a movie that actually aims to do justice to the Horror genre and the scares it delivers... and boy, do they!
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