If you’re a horror fan and Babak Anvaris’ Under the Shadow isn’t on your radar yet, that needs to change immediately. The Iranian genre offering debuted at Sundance, made waves at subsequent festivals, and garnered comparisons to recent indie horror favorites like It Follows and The Babadook. I like it at least as much as one of those, and far more than the other, but check out this new trailer and prepare to count the days until the domestic release.
This trailer doesn’t quite capture the edgy tension or atmospheric dread of living in a war zone, worrying about the safety of your loved ones, and coping with malicious supernatural forces that Under the Shadow puts out, but that’s damn near impossible to do in two minutes. It’s a heady cocktail of fantastic elements to be sure, one that provides a fresh, unique spin and adds weight and heft to a claustrophobic haunted house narrative.
When I saw Under the Shadow at SIFF this year, I called it “tense, terrifying, slow-burn horror that works every last frayed nerve ending, ratcheting up the dread and pressure to near-unbearable levels.” And I stand by every word. Balancing real-world terror with mythical evil, this is simply one of the best horror movies I’ve seen in years—or just movies I’ve seen in years, you don’t have to be a horror freak to love this.
Here’s a lengthy synopsis if you’re looking for specifics and particulars:
Shideh (Narges Rashidi) and her family live amid the chaos of the Iran-Iraq war, a period known as The War of the Cities. Accused of subversion by the post-Revolution government and blacklisted from medical college, she falls into a state of malaise. With Tehran under the constant threat of aerial bombardment, her husband (Bobby Naderi) is drafted and sent to the frontlines by the army, leaving Shideh all alone to protect their young daughter, Dorsa (Avin Manshadi). Soon after he leaves, a missile hits their apartment building and while failing to explode, a neighbor dies under mysterious circumstances and Dorsa’s behavior becomes increasingly erratic.
Shideh finds herself slowly drawn into the ensuing turmoil, struggling to cling onto what is real and what is not. Searching for answers, she learns from a superstitious neighbor that the cursed missile might have brought with it Djinn – malevolent Middle-Eastern spirits that travel on the wind. Convinced that a supernatural force within the building is attempting to possess Dorsa, Shideh has no choice but to confront these forces if she is to save her daughter and herself.
Sadly, because it’s subtitled, Under the Shadow probably won’t open as wide or hit with quite the impact of It Follows or The Babadook, which is a damn shame. But you should do what you can to seek this out when the time comes. It’s well worth your attention.
And fortunately it won’t be too difficult to track down Under the Shadow. Vertical Entertainment and XYZ Films are handling the theatrical and VOD run, which begins on October 7. Back at Sundance, Netflix picked up the distribution rights, so it should be readily available on the streaming service not too long after that.