5.2/10
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21 user 54 critic

Shelley (2016)

Not Rated | | Drama, Horror | 29 July 2016 (USA)
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Louise and Kasper want to become parents but Louise is unable to have children. She seals a pact with her Romanian maid, Elena, to bear Louise's child, but things don't turn out as they planned.

Director:

Ali Abbasi
1 win & 8 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview:
Ellen Dorrit Petersen ... Louise
Cosmina Stratan ... Elena
Peter Christoffersen Peter Christoffersen ... Kasper
Björn Andrésen Björn Andrésen ... Leo
Marianne Mortensen Marianne Mortensen ... Isabella
Kenneth M. Christensen ... Simon
Patricia Schumann ... Nanna
Marlon Kindberg Bach Marlon Kindberg Bach ... Sigurd
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Storyline

Louise and Kasper, a Danish couple, live in an isolated villa in the middle of the forest away from modern life, technology and even electricity. Louise's biggest dream is to become a mother but she is unable to have children. She finally decides, out of desperation, to seal a pact with her Romanian maid, Elena. Elena accepts to bear Louise's child as a surrogate mother in exchange for a large amount of money. The life growing inside of her is taking shape too fast, affecting the lives of everyone like an evil force. Paranoia and horror set in around the inevitable birth...

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Inside, an evil grows.

Genres:

Drama | Horror

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

Denmark | Sweden

Release Date:

29 July 2016 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Шели See more »

Filming Locations:

Copenhagen, Denmark See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Stereo

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Ali Abbasi's directorial film debut. See more »

Quotes

Louise:
  • Well, there's more to this world than what you see. Why are you so skeptical?

Elena:
  • I'm not skeptical.

Louise:
  • Yes, you are.

Elena:
  • I just don't believe it.

Louise:
  • Go and watch some TV and make your brain melt!

See more »

Soundtracks

Dan Fryste Songen
Created by Per Sivle
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User Reviews

 
Better Than Average... For What That's Worth
5 August 2016 | by gavin6942See all my reviews

Louise (Ellen Dorrit Petersen) and Kasper (Peter Christoffersen) want to become parents but Louise is unable to have children. She seals a pact with her Romanian maid, Elena (Cosmina Stratan), to bear Louise's child, but things don't turn out as they planned.

What sort of feeling or anticipation do we get when we approach "Shelley"? At first, the name evokes thoughts of Frankenstein's monster, but we quickly see this might not be the best parallel. The plot is much closer to a modern retelling of "Rosemary's Baby". Not that we needed one, but the concept of "natal horror" can always make room for one more.

The dynamics of this film are noticeably different from "Rosemary". In that film, the threat was always external. Mia Farrow was terrified of her neighbors, her doctor, and sometimes even her husband as she continually felt boxed in. With "Shelley", it's almost as though things have been reversed. The threat now comes from within (the child itself) and we see events not just from the mother's perspective, but also from the outsiders (the "other" parents).

The idea is good, and they must be applauded for casting an actual Romanian in the role of a Romanian maid. This is sort of counter-acted by having Danish people speaking English, however. I presume this was done to boost the chances of international screenings and sales, but it seems inauthentic. This is probably a nitpick, but in this regard I have to be a purist.

The bigger question remains: Why does the couple live in the woods without electricity? The answer, of course, is this offers a great setting for a horror film. But it is not adequately explained by the characters. You might think an employee would ask why there's no power, but it never seems to occur to anyone. Are they Luddites? Is this a religious thing? Maybe a little mystery is good, but it seems silly to avoid the issue altogether.

Early reviews seem to be very divergent and often mixed. Rotten Tomatoes has the film at an impressive 100%, while IMDb gives the movie only 5.7/10, which is nothing to be proud of. It's too early to rely on either metric, so let's look at more concrete examples. Noel Murray walks that middle line, saying the film "becomes frustratingly vague in the middle" but ends up giving it a passing grade anyway. Neil Genzlinger feels similar, saying the film takes "a minimalist approach that is both intriguing and somewhat unsatisfying… Maybe expecting a horror film to have a point is expecting too much." He clearly wants to like the film but cannot fully commit to it. Alissa Simon is even less impressed, agreeing that the film is "unsatisfying", and also volunteering "underdeveloped" and "ludicrous".

For my money, the film is a decent horror film in its own right and will probably be popular when it hits Netflix or wherever it ends up. But it is neither one of the best on the festival circuit nor one of the best horror films of 2016. In the glut of movies coming out year after year, this is still better than average, but the average seems to be on a decline… so it doesn't take too much to get a C when we're grading on a curve.

"Shelley" debuted in February 2016 in Berlin, and has been making the festival rounds. Most recently it screened at the Fantasia International Film Festival in July. No rest for the wicked, however. Director Ali Abbasi is said to be already at work on "The Holy Spider," a film about Saeed Hanaei, an infamous Iranian serial killer. (Other sources have him directing "Border", which may be the same film under a different title.)


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