'Under the Shadow' is a horror masterpiece you need to experience now

A jinn latches onto an Iranian family in this masterful horror film.

Under the Shadow made a huge splash at the Sundance Film Festival in 2017, but it remains a wildly under-appreciated Persian horror film that everyone should see — particularly around Halloween.

Written and directed by Babak Anvari, Under the Shadow follows the story of Shideh (Narges Rashidi) and her young daughter Dorsa (Avin Manshadi) in the throes of their contentious relationship. Living in Tehran near the end of the Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s, Shideh is frustrated because she’s trying to go back to medical school to complete her degree, if only to make fulfill the dreams of her late mother. However, having participated in the Iranian revolution, the university banned her from returning to her studies. Struggling with feelings of bitterness, guilt, and sadness, Shideh is later haunted by a jinn, a malevolent Middle Eastern spirit, that latches onto her and her daughter.

Under the Shadow is fraught with images and themes that evoke a visceral and emotional reaction from the audience. Masterfully connecting a sense of humanity with horror elements, bot traditional and novel, separates the film from others in the genre.

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Dorsa is able to see the jinn before her mother. 

So, why should you entertain this horror film? Well, there are so many reasons.

Like Hereditary, which was as much psychological as it was horror, Under the Shadow has an incredibly strong build-up to the big finale. The film isn’t interested in jump scares for the hell of it. Instead, it weaves its tale of horror by connecting it directly to Shideh’s insecurities and attempts to destroy her from the inside out, starting with the relationship she has with Dorsa.

Rarely do films explore mother-daughter relationships, but Under the Shadow would be nothing without it. In fact, the exploration of motherhood, of the negative feelings someone can have toward their own child, and Shideh’s own struggles with wanting to please her own mother are all major factors in the film. This horror film is also incredibly intimate and personal, which is a big reason why the final showdown is that much more terrifying.

And, honestly, how rare is it that a horror film centers a Middle Eastern spirit?

Jinn, which are considered to be intelligent entities in lore, are not necessarily good or evil. However, they’ve been portrayed as being malevolent on more than one occasion. In the instance of Under the Shadow, the spirit latches onto Shideh in a different approach to possession. With phenomenal acting and inspired directing by Babak Anvari, Under the Shadow is a horror masterpiece that will stay with you long after the credits roll.


Under the Shadow is currently streaming on Netflix.