During the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, a doctor named Iraj (Naderi) is sent to the front lines, leaving behind his wife Shideh (Rashidi) and young daughter Dorsa (Manshadi). A large missile hits their Tehran apartment building but doesn’t explode. Shideh refuses to leave despite an ever increasing sense of foreboding and a nosy neighbor talking of djinn (evil spirits). When Dorsa loses her favorite doll and starts behaving erratically, Shideh begins to question everything she thought she knew.
Anvari’s debut feature is a potent mix of socio-political commentary and horror film tropes; the scares are slow to build and thus all the more effective on arrival. Rashidi’s central performance embodies the contained anger of a woman deprived of her rights under an authoritarian regime. It’s fascinating to watch her outrage turn to terror as her circumstances go from bad to much, much worse. Economical in style, trenchant in substance, Anvari’s nightmarish fairy tale makes for edge-of-your-seat viewing.