Tuesday, 4 October 2016

REVIEW - UNDER THE SHADOW (BABAK ANVARI)


A world beyond wreaks havoc on the cloistered confines of a besieged apartment block in 1988 Tehran; Babak Anvari's debut feature follows in the footsteps of many similar horror films, but in selecting only those standards that adhere to those set out by his thematic premise, and in enriching them with further subtextual detail, he places distinctive footsteps of his own over and beyond those placed before him. Under the Shadow is a perfectly adequate, functional horror film, indeed a particularly bone-chilling one, without Anvari's psychological and societal inquiries muddying the water, but it's precisely that muddying that turns it into both a brilliant horror film, and a brilliant film by the measures of any genre. By its conclusion, each thread of suggestion, whichever point you suspect Anvari may be making with each new turn in the narrative, all coalesce into one, fearsome whole, arguably even more distressing than the many, excellent scares concocted herein. But those threads in isolation, gradually amassing throughout the film, supply almost equally persuasive and wonderfully abundant metaphorical weight to Under the Shadow. Anvari's scheme is relevant, provocative, richly shaded with the realities of life under such circumstances as well as the fantasies that give this film so unique and memorable a character. The direction too displays remarkable assurance for an artist on only their first feature - the grip of terror taking hold within a relentlessly claustrophobic environment, though Anvari consistently keeps Under the Shadow varied in its locations, and shows marvellous mastery of technique in extracting such terror from his scenario. Fear reigned in Tehran in 1988 - in Under the Shadow, it reigns still today.