It’s October, our favorite month on the blog! Besides all of the other months. October is always like coming full circle to our first collaborative posts on Ginger Snaps. Never fear–there will be plenty of questionable special effects and metaphors for puberty later this month. First, we’re kicking things off with a more sinister horror that dials up the suspense.
Under the Shadow
A woman in 1980s Tehran suspects the Iran-Iraq War isn’t the only thing to fear when creepy things start happening in her apartment.
After failing to gain re-acceptance into med school, Shideh finds it difficult to contain her resentment of her family–husband Iraj and daughter Dorsa. Because of her politics during the 1979 Revolution, Shideh is essentially blacklisted from the university. Most discouraging of all is her mother’s recent death, which has given Shideh the final push to complete her studies and achieve their shared dream.
Unfortunately, it’s too late for Shideh to become a doctor, which her doctor husband is pretty ok with TBH. The tension between the two is always simmering below the surface and boils over pretty frequently. Sometimes Shideh finds herself snapping at her daughter too as she feels she was too quick to start a family.
All of this is happening in the ongoing Iran-Iraq War, which draws closer to Tehran every day. It won’t be long before Iraj must serve his country at the heart of the fighting, leaving Shideh and Dorsa to worry about the threat of missiles and maybe even spirits haunting the apartment building.
Dorsa insists she can see and hear things in the apartment that she suspects are djinn. Fun fact: a djinn is apparently a lot different from what I thought it was. In this film, the djinn is sort of a ghost or breeze that floats in. Horrifyingly, Dorsa seems to be getting these stories from the creepy neighbor kid…who also happens to be mute. Me. Out of there. Immediately.
If the supernatural elements weren’t stressful enough, the anxiety meter gets cranked up when missiles target Tehran, even striking the apartment building itself. Shideh tries to save a neighbor who has a heart attack in response, but bitterly reflects she’s not really a doctor.
After the missile scare, many of the neighbors leave. Shideh, however, refuses to leave–partly because the last thing she wants to do is rely on her in-laws. This woman is made of sterner stuff than I because she experiences something trying to choke her in the night, the destruction of her beloved Jane Fonda workout tape, strange sounds, and the disappearance of Dorsa’s doll. The last part is especially troubling as one of the neighbors (helpfully) tells Shideh she’s screwed if the djinn possesses something of hers.
Meanwhile, the air raid sirens have been sounding more and more frequently, prompting Shideh’s decision to finally leave Tehran with Dorsa. First, they must navigate an accusation of indecency when Shideh flees during an air raid without wearing a hijab. For fuck’s sake, men.
Added complication: Shideh must find the doll before she and Dorsa can leave. It doesn’t help that Dorsa keeps saying heart-stopping things about a lady who has the doll and says she can take care of her.
Which will Shideh and Dorsa encounter first: the doll, the missiles, or the djinn?
4.5/5 Pink Panther Heads
I loved this one–so damn creepy and suspenseful. Though it’s a fairly short film, my heart was pounding through its entire run time. Having both the threat of war and supernatural phenomena was effective in creating tension that had me genuinely concerned about our two main characters.
Speaking of our main characters, I enjoyed the realistic relationship between mother and daughter. Shideh got frustrated with her daughter regularly and frequently seemed to fail to be patient or sympathetic. I never had the sense that their relationship was easy (Shideh was, after all, raising a daughter by herself in the midst of war, broken dreams, and angry spirits), but it felt strong throughout and grounded the film.
Word of warning–if you have the option to watch the dubbed version, don’t do it. Netflix defaulted to some of the worst English dubbed dialogue, and I switched over to subtitled Farsi almost immediately. It’s much more convincing.