Thursday, 6 February 2020

Under the Shadow (2016)

"An Iranian Urban Ghost Story"

Babak Anvari's domestic horror picture set against the backdrop of the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s gets a whistles and bells limited edition Blu-ray release from Second Sight.

Tehran, 1988. Shideh (Narges Rashidi) is desperate to continue her medical training, but she's refused entry to the local university because of her previous political activism. Her husband Iraj (Bobby Naderi), currently a practicing doctor, is preparing to be despatched to serve in the war. The apartment block in which they live is in constant danger of being bombed. 

After Irak leaves and a missile wrecks the roof of the building, most of the occupants flee and Shideh and her daughter Dorsa (Avin Manshadi) are left on their own. Or are they? Dorsa has been told a story by a supposedly mute boy about a Djinn that takes personal items in order to entrap its potential victims. Dorsa's favourite doll has gone missing and soon other items start to disappear as well. And what's that floating shape that can occasionally be seen out of the corner of the eye?

Rather than being a film intent on hammering home any number of messages, instead UNDER THE SHADOW uses its elements of frustrated motherhood against a backdrop of war to help ramp up the suspense of what becomes, in its final act, a fine example of the urban ghost story, one which could easily stand alongside the literary works of authors such as Fritz Leiber and Ramsey Campbell. The effects are sparse but effective, with the use of distorted facial characteristics contributing immensely to the occasional jump scares.

Second Sight's disc comes with Babak Anvari's BAFTA-nominated short film TWO & TWO and a number of interviews, including 30 minutes with the writer-director himself and further chats with star Narges Rashidi, producers Lucan Toh and Oliver Roskill, and cinematographer Kit Fraser. There's also a new commentary track from Babak Anvari with Jamie Graham.

The limited edition set also comes with a rigid slipcase featuring new artwork from Christopher Shy, a book with new writing on the film from Jon Towlson and Daniel Bird that also contains behind the scenes photos and concept art, and there's a poster featuring the new artwork.

Babak Anvari's UNDER THE SHADOW is out on Blu-ray 
in a limited edition set from Second Sight on 
Monday 10th February 2020

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