With Under the Shadow, Babak Anvari has his finger on the pulse of what we want, and deserve, from an independent horror movie. A potent location in 1980s missile-wary Tehran, a compelling lead in Narges Rashidi who grapples with cultural and professional oppression in addition to her family being haunted, and an actively restrained director who suckerpunches his audience with powerful scares when they least expect it. Shadows is the latest in a string of politically-charged paranormal exports (A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, to name one) from Iran and from the physical traits of the fearsome Djinn, who’ve latched onto daughter Dorsa (Avin Manshadi) for nefarious ends, suspiciously remind one of an anthropomorphized burka, an extension of the societal persecution Rashidi’s Shideh suffers daily. Under the Shadow joins the ranks of recent modern horror greats (Babadook, It Follows) that combine meaningful social commentary in with effective frights. Consider it a must see. (A-)
*Capsule reviews of 100 words from the Seattle International Film Festival.