By Jake Cordiner (@jjjjaketh)
UNDER THE SHADOW
Set in the 1980’s during the infamous “War of the Cities”, Under The Shadow is a supremely creepy film. After a missile hits our protagonists, mother Shideh and daughter Dorsa’s, apartment building, superstitious neighbours are convinced that the missile shell was cursed and contained evil spirits or Djinn. As the days progress, more and more strange goings on occur around their home and Shideh becomes convinced that the Djinn are attempting to possess her daughter. Under The Shadow has been on my radar for the better part of a year, ever since seeing the high praise that Best Film Critic Currently Alive Mark Kermode™ (my words, not his) gave it. And I’m incredibly happy to report that it lives up to the hype and then some. This film has a lingering, ever-present darkness that hangs over each and every scene (barring maybe the Jane Fonda workout tape scenes… aye).
There’s always the sense that something horrible is just about to happen. Constant explosions can be heard in the background throughout the film, some closer than others, which works wonders in conveying the ever-present danger that plagued the citizens of Iraq and Iran during the “War of the Cities”. The film as a whole can be seen as one big fuck off metaphor about the horrors of war, but I also seen it as a study in how a mother’s love can outweigh anything, be it evil spirits threatening to take her daughter, or evil men threatening to take the lives of her and everyone she loves. As for the scares, they are FANTASTIC. The aforementioned perpetually creepy atmosphere make it so when a genuine fright occurs, it’s almost twice as effective. Add to this two powerful central performances from Narges Rashidi (Shideh) and newcomer Avin Manshadi (Dorsa), you’ve got a big pot of scary soup on the hob baby. Though there
The aforementioned perpetually creepy atmosphere make it so when a genuine fright occurs, it’s almost twice as effective. Add to this two powerful central performances from Narges Rashidi (Shideh) and newcomer Avin Manshadi (Dorsa), you’ve got a big pot of scary soup on the hob baby. Though there were one or two relatively cheap jump scares, the vast majority of frights in Under The Shadow are cerebral and goosebump-inducing. Under The Shadow is truly a film that will dig its way deep under your skin.
A film adaption Gerald’s Game shouldn’t exist. Constantly described as “literally unfilmable” this 1992 Stephen King story is a complex tale about a woman going slowly insane. To describe it any further would
ruin some of this film’s magic, so, kind of but not really SPOILERS for the rest of this wee review. Jeff Flanagan then, by the account of the doubters, has achieved the impossible. Gerald’s Game is a whip smart, uncomfortable, tense and pitch black horror/thriller. Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood play Jessie and Gerald Burlingame. A slightly above middle-aged couple who, in an attempt to spice up their slightly failing marriage, hire a friend’s forest cabin for a weekend of fine dining and finer SHAGGIN’. Things get a bit too rowdy for Jessie, a series of bad things happen and she’s left handcuffed to a bed, alone, in the middle of the woods. Not ideal. She begins hallucinating multiple… people (OR IS SHE HALLUCINATING OOOOOO?!) and slowly goes insane. There’s also a pretty cute dog that gets involved.
There’s honestly not much I can say plot-wise that won’t ruin some of the films later developments, so excuse my vagueness but I really think this is a film that should be experienced with as little prior knowledge of the source material as possible. Now, is the film good? In short, yes.Very, very good. The majority of the film is shot in such a way that you feel like you’re in the bedroom with Jessie, every uncomfortable tug on her wrists from the handcuffs is palpable and stunningly uncomfortable. Gugino’s performance(s) as Jessie is nothing short of fantastic. Selling the characters perpetual descent into madness with aplomb. Credit also to Bruce Greenwood who plays the titular Gerald with a wonderful and knowing cuntiness. The make-up used in the film is also to be commended, particularly in the case of Jessie’s wrists and face as the film progresses, and the design of the Moonlight Man (who I won’t talk about any more but HOLEE SHIT is he creepy).
There’s a sliiiiiiiiiight deep in quality in the films final third, but not enough to tarnish what is a beautifully realised adaption of one of Stephen King’s littler known works. Having been a fan of Flanagan’s work in the past (namely 2013’s Oculus and 2016’s Ouija: Origin of Evil) I’m truly excited to see what he works on next.