Horrorfest 2019 Presents: Under The Shadow (2016, Babak Anvari)

Unfortunately for Shideh and her daughter Dorsa in Under The Shadow, the war between Iran and Iraq is the least of their worries. An evil spirit called a djinn for reasons unknown wants her daughter, and refuses to stop harassing them in their apartment. Also since the bombing has intensified it has become difficult for them to leave, although her husband wants her to after he is shipped to the front lines. What makes things even more problematic is that Dorsa doesn’t want to leave without her doll, which goes missing. This film has a really strong creepy undercurrent that makes the dramatic scenes are the more intense and real to the viewer.

Narges Rashidi gives a captivating performance as Shiedeh, who doubts what is going on with her daughter until things spiral out of control. I liked the subplot of her dealing with her inability to continue her medical career due to the country’s oppressive policies, and how this leads to lingering self-doubt about her abilities. Furthermore, the djinn is used sparingly to great effect, particularly in many unnerving moments and a scene that is very scary. I loved how the last act is beyond freaky and that Under The Shadow has scenes that remind me why ghost and evil spirit movies are often the scariest ones. Having this movie paired with The Babadookas a double bill would be a fantastic idea, and funny enough I viewed both movies thanks to Netflix Instant Viewing. 

Horrorfest 2014 Presents: Wishmaster (1997, Robert Kurtzman)

Even though Robert Kurtzman directed this nasty and entertaining piece of work much of this film has the look and feel of a Wes Craven movie. Which makes sense considering that the master of horror produced this film, the first in a series of movies about a sinister djinn that is released into the world, creating havoc and plaguing the living. As the insane and gory opening reveals, this foul creature requires three wishes so that it may be free to walk the earth, something that no one should ever want. This monster is portrayed in human form with wonderful sneering menace by Andrew Divoff, who is given plenty of horribly funny one liners. This film may be a reflection of other films such as the cult Leprechaun series, and yet it stands apart from those because its really creepy with only small bits of humor involved. Plus you have Robert Englund, Ted Raimi, Tony Todd, Kane Hodder, Reggie Bannister and other famous horror movie actors who have been in numerous classics over the years involved in this movie, which makes their cameos (save for Englund, who has a big part) fun to notice.

It also helps this movie that the female lead is pretty great-Alexandra, played by Tammy Lauren, who quickly realizes she is in over her head. The scenes where the dijnn plagues her, then later on tempts her with wishes are both freaky and engaging. And of course this film has multiple horrible things happening to people who actually make wishes, bringing to mind the idea that one should not only be careful what they wish for, but also that one should be really specific. Or just not make any wishes at all, considering that’s what the diabolical dijnn wants you to do. I also liked how the film concluded, as it was a bit of a fun surprise, and this movie has plenty of nasty elements to keep viewers who hunger for such things entertained. I’m not sure if I want to view the sequels although I’m reminded of The Prophecy, although 90s horror film series with mythical beings (depending on your point of view and beliefs) that turned out to be fun and enjoyable, so perhaps I’ll give the Wishmaster series a shot as well.

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