Under The Shadow (2016)

A middle eastern Babadook.

As a mother and daughter struggle to cope with the terrors of post revolution, war torn Tehran of the 1980s, a mysterious evil begins to haunt their home.

Babak Anvari delivers a though provoking directorial debut, Under The Shadow, whilst drowning in social subtext. Blending terrifying real life horror of the Iran – Iraq war with the haunted house trope, it’s the horrifying reality which really gives Under The Shadow its sharp edge.

Like all of the best horror films, Under The Shadows is compelling before any monsters show up. True, it may be a familiar story just relocated, by it’s the frightening authentic backdrop that really sets in the grim atmosphere.

Under The Shadow is indeed a slow burn psychological chiller, only clocking in at 84 minutes, although it feels much longer. Fans for those who enjoy and are willing to read between the lines will get a kick out of this movie. As what we are really seeing is an interesting look into the mental psyche of a woman on the edge of a breakdown, in the middle of a war. Not only are there cracks in her ceiling, but cracks in her mind and family.

There are quite a few fleeting genuinely creepy moments, a particular nerve pricking scene involves Shideh (Narges Rashidi) fleeing her home in terror with her daughter, Dorsa (Avin Manshadi), to only be accosted in the street and shamed by police for not covering herself appropriately in public, rather then any help given, she is scolded and accused that the only thing she should fear is humiliation from her actions.

Rashidi and Manshadi share a remarkably believable connection as mother and daughter, almost too real, which really sells the final moments of the film.

Under The Shadow serves as an impassioned allegory for the female oppression. Once the move from realism to horror kicks in you begin to question the reality of both characters. With creative cinematography and visual effects spookily used, Under The Shadow casts a question over what is real and what isn’t.

7.5 / 10

“They travel on the wind”

Pet (2016)

Not your usual damsel in distress story.  

An infatuated man (Dominic Monaghan) bumps into an old crush (Ksenia Solo) and subsequently becomes obsessed with her, leading him to hold her captive underneath the animal shelter where he works. But what will the victim have in store for her captor?

Carles Torrens sophomore feature film, Pet, is a twisted little love story that rehashes a familiar scenario but with a twist. It’s difficult to discuss much more without giving away the plot details. It can be said though that the inclusion of these peculiar characters elevates the story from the expected torture porn trappings to something with a little more substance and mystery.

The film is a little clunky in its development. At first it seemed that Seth (Monaghan) is a perfectly well rounded individual, maybe a little sad, but a good guy. There is quite a touching moment when he wants to save a soon to be euthanized German Shepard. So, after his old flame doesn’t respond to his affections, naturally he stalks and abducts her, which all just felt very jarring. Which is only the beginning of incoherency for the film.

Pet doesn’t try to fool you into thinking it is any smarter than it truly is though. It’s a smart re-arrangement of a popular trope without any air of pretentiousness to the script. It indeed has its flaws, but that doesn’t stop it from being entertaining. The twists will either make it or break it for you, if you choose to roll with the punches you may find Pet to be the perfect midnight movie.

6.0 / 10

“Do you know what happens to a Great White Shark when you put him inside an aquarium? It bashes its brains against the glass… every time”

Fear Inc (2016)

Basically a horror movie version of The Game…

A horror junkie and his friends sign up with a company that brings their customers greatest fears to life.

Vincent Masciale tries to out meta past horror greats with his directorial debut, Fear Inc. Although playful at times for horror aficionados, there are plenty of scenes that capture respectful homages to the classics, the messy script and underdeveloped characters can’t be overlooked.

Without any question, Fear Inc has the most annoying lead character of all time, Joe Foster (Lucas Neff). Joe is not the kind of character that is annoying at first, but soon you learn to love him. No… This guy is totally unlikeable, he is a lazy, overblown dud living off his girlfriend’s money, and worst of all he’s just not very funny. With only a couple minutes into the film I was begging for this character to have a painful death.

With a somewhat interesting concept, everything just felt a little clunky and very flip floppy. The jokes weren’t landing and the scares weren’t scaring, the tonal shifts were non-existent, so once things start to kick into gear we are left wanting more. Instead, the whole story begins to feel like wasted potential.

For a story that is conceived around what is real and what isn’t, you have to let your imagination stretch a little, but here Masciale is pushing it. The structure of the twists requires a large suspension of disbelief and if less time was spent trying to outsmart the viewer and more time on inventive scares, this could have a been a good little flick.

Fear Inc comes across as a desperate attempt to become a cult classic. It fails to stick its multiple landings and when it finally does come to a bloody crescendo its nothing but a terrible ending to a mediocre film.

4.5 / 10

“I just wanna be scared a lil bit. I just wanna shake in my boots”