Under The Shadow (dir. Babak Anvari, 2016) – In post-revolution Tehran, Shideh struggles to cope with the terrors of war and a mysterious evil in her home.
Under The Shadow presents an unnerving haunting beyond the supernatural, in which demons manifest in myth, war and personal trials.
It is the 1980s in Tehran. The Iran–Iraq War has left its citizens living in constant fear. Where there is anxiety, the wind blows and the Djinn follows. With her misgivings of the war at large and her personal struggles at hand, Shideh (Narges Rashidi) has left her door for the demon wide open.
It is easy to understand why. She had been on the way to becoming a doctor, when marriage and childbirth halted her dreams. Her husband Iraj (Bobby Naderi) meanwhile casts doubt on her career ambitions, encouraging her full commitment to motherhood to her quiet dismay.
When the time finally comes for her to get back on track, things unexpectedly go south. The Cultural Revolution happens, cutting short Shideh’s education and conscripting Iraj to war.
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Contagion (dir. Steven Soderbergh, 2011) – A new epidemic causes panic across the globe as the Centre for Disease Control work tirelessly towards a cure.
While all too sprawling, Contagion offers a grounded and effective study in the spread of disease and fear.
In face of a worldwide epidemic, connectivity may be the death knell of civilisation. The Internet allows for the unbridled barrage of theories and speculations, in a modern world that places little trust in the mainstream media or even the government administration.
Mitch Emhoff (Matt Damon) witnesses first-hand what rumours can do. After his wife Beth (Gwyneth Paltrow) and son fall victim to the fatal MEV-1, he finds leaving the city an impossible task. Panic, fuelled by false news, has left supply shelves empty and all roads in chaos.
Contagion presents a realistically dire situation in face of a seemingly incurable pandemic, never shying away from the horrors of the stricken. The bleak imagery, especially in death, proves striking.
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Animal Kingdom (by Jonathan Lisco, 2016) – After the death of his mother, 17-year-old Joshua Cody moves in with his relatives for the start of a new, reckless life.
Fraught with danger and tension, Animal Kingdom makes waves in the gritty drama scene with intriguing family dynamics.
Miss The Sopranos? Meet the Codys. The family-affair crime syndicate is set to turn devious manipulation into an art. Adapted from David Michôd’s critically acclaimed film, Animal Kingdom presents a suburban underworld thriving in plain view, where Janine ‘Smurf’ Cody (Ellen Barkin) leads the pack.
The story begins the same way, with the matriarch adopting her teenage grandson J (Finn Cole) after his mother dies of a heroin overdose. J eases into the shady family business, where his uncle Baz (Scott Speedman) calls the shots. That is until Janine’s eldest son Pope (Shawn Hatosy) returns from prison, looking to regain his hold on the reins.
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iBoy (dir. Adam Randall, 2017) – Left with fragments of his smartphone in his brain, Tom develops powers to manipulate electronics and begins his plan for vengeance.
Teen vigilante iBoy fails to escape tropes, the ultimate villain of all superhero adventures.
In the real world, phone bits lodged near your temporal lobe will likely be incapacitating, if not fatal. It is quite fortunate that our victim lives in fiction then. And with an alias like iBoy, it is hard to expect anything less than ludicrous, as the young vigilante takes on the big mission to sweep the seedy corners of London.
That dated pseudonym belongs to Tom (Bill Milner), a brooding teen who witnesses a sexual assault on his classmate Lucy (Maisie Williams) and gets shot in his head. A nasty scar is not all he gets. Phone fragments in his brain render him able to connect remotely to nearby devices. Sort of like a human modem, if you’d like.
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Split (dir. M. Night Shyamalan, 2016) – Three girls plan their desperate escape from a man with 23 distinct personalities, before the emergence of his 24th, known as The Beast.
If The Visit marks M Night Shyamalan’s probable return to form, Split reassures us that his success was no fluke.
It is a wonder what the human brain can do. Manifold personalities can exist within a single mind, each with individual ideals and purpose. Where a spectator sees awe, the afflicted must see fear and pain. How do you live with the knowledge that your life is not your own?
Despite multiple cases on record, not much about Dissociative Identity Disorder is conclusive. It is no surprise that psychological thrillers have repeatedly exploited it as a subject of horror. When films like Identity and Shelter turn this very real disorder into a motive to madness, it is essential that audiences must understand this, is but fiction.
That being said, Split proves a solid psychological thriller, with more than what the simple story line purports. In Kevin (James McAvoy) and his 23 personalities, psychiatrist Dr Fletcher (Betty Buckley) sees not only truth, but the answer to unlocking the human mind’s full potential.
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Johnny Got His Gun (Dalton Trumbo, 1939) – A young American soldier awakens in a hospital bed after being caught in the blast of an exploding artillery shell.
A haunting anti-war manifesto, Johnny Got A Gun echoes with relevance even today.
Every war narrative is essentially anti-war. In news or fiction, each account of the dire costs is a call for pacifism. In Johnny Got His Gun, prolific writer and filmmaker Dalton Trumbo crafted one of the strongest imagery in war literature, by giving a voice to the voiceless.
His story centres on the tragic fate of one young soldier, who wakes to find himself blind, mute, deaf and paralysed. Unable to tell if he is alive or dead, he struggles to come to terms with his disfigurement and hold onto his slipping soul by recalling his idyllic past.
The horrors of his position is unimaginable. Trapped in someone else’s war and consequently his own body, Joe Bonham is a man who finds no reason to live, yet cannot die. However inconceivable his pain must be, we come close to knowing the victim in these vividly written pages.
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