Horror Movie Reviews

Surrogate of terror ‘Shelley’ – movie review

SHELLEY 

A film is like a jigsaw puzzle. So many pieces often need to come together to create a seamlessly enjoyable film. Horror can sometimes get away with a ridiculous storyline because to watch the film is so much fun. Shelley directed by Ali Abbasi however goes the opposite direction with a terribly mundane storyline but with some fantastic filmic elements littered throughout. 

Shelley tells the age old story of ‘evil baby comes to town’. Elena (Cosmina Stratan) is a house keeper in search of extra money for her and her son. She starts working for Louisa and her husband in a remote cabin in the woods. Louisa and her hubby are the type of couple who grow their own food and don’t have electricity in the house. Events and chatter occur and Louisa asks Elena if she will carry their baby with her frozen eggs (for a sizeable sum). In no time at all Elena is pregnant and we start to see the symptoms of a pregnancy which is anything but normal. Whatever is inside of Elena is sucking her body and soul dry.

This plot line is a familiar thread in horror cinema. Of course there is Rosemary’s Baby which also plays on the fears expectant mothers have. Rosemary’s Baby is perfection and it will always be hard for any film – even one thirty odd years later – to compare with the Polanski film. Shelley’s narrative really lets the film down however. The first thirty minutes are slow and captivating due to the extremely strong acting and camera work. The actors are fleshed out characters with wants and needs which carry them through the film and give their actions meaning. I found myself invested in their journey. Yet as the film reached its finale it didn’t go batshit crazy but trickled off, and went on and on with an ending that resembled a whimper.

Apart from that hiccup the film is a beauty to watch. The location is stunning and director Abbasi has a keen eye for strong visuals. Elena’s descent while pregnant is unnerving and disgusting to watch. The film follows the more naturalistic approach to film which is becoming ever more popular in cinema. With only hints to the baby being demonic I wanted the film to follow through to wild consequences. Yet it skirted on the edge never really diving into the deep end.

Shelley to me reminds me of that person you know in your life who is talented but never reached their potential.

3/5

SHELLEY is directed by  Ali Abbasi and stars Ellen Dorrit Petersen, Cosmina Stratan and Björn Andrésen. It will be in  theaters on July 29th courtesy of IFC Midnight.

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4 replies »

  1. SPOILERS: I find it difficult to believe that no one seems to grasp the fact that the baby HAS TO BE DEMONIC. Look at how many people go insane and die: at least two on-screen: the poor Elena is a funny intelligent lovely woman who goes insane and kills herself; that wizard seemingly goes into shock after simply looking into the baby’s eyes; then the husband is clearly driven mad from the “clicking” sound he hears.

    We know that a pregnant Elena has a painful reaction to water, which also is manifested by the baby herself. (Who never needs sleep and only cries when dipped into bathwater.) This is clearly observed by Louisa (a quite stunning Nordic beauty) who doesn’t have the problem herself, as she’s seen bathing and sleeping. She’s seemingly oblivious to the impact the baby has on three people. The husband and spiritualist also seem to be bewitched by the baby’s vampiric eyes.

    I’m quite surprised as I believed there’d be more online debate about this worthy film.

    We clearly see the husband’s ghost in the background right near the conclusion. I’ve been searching the web trying to see if Ali Abbasi had turned to Nordic mythology. I found some basic possibilities but nothing definitive. However the filmmaker is Iranian, so the answer may be in that region’s mythology.

    My gut feeling as a horror aficionado is: changeling. I’d love to hear what others think or have found about a baby that burns under water, never sleeps or cries and has the eyes of Dracula.

      • I just saw this now, too late, technically. Sorry I will check back more frequently. I don’t go to theaters as much these days. I wait for films to appear on Netflix, etc., so I usually watch them many months after release. I find a lot of horror films frustrating. Most recently I watched the latest Blair Witch entry; I wasn’t impressed. I though Lights Out had potential: in the end it didn’t do it for me either. They took a fascinating hook and killed it with a lot of noise, a boring ghost. I think American filmmakers should stop ripping off Asian filmmakers or at least try to go them one better. Take the tired zombie subgenre: Hulu has a seemingly endless number of crappy American zombie films. Then watch Train to Buson, probably one of the best zombie films in years.

        I liked the Sinister films, especially the first one, though it had significant storytelling problems and many missed opportunities. (The ending was extremely cynical, and it didn’t fit for me. I didn’t want that family to die and the fact they never explicitly showed the wife and son with our protagonist Ellison tells me that they knew there was a problem. And what really killed me is that they had a much better ending staring them right in the face!) But still, I liked it. I found Hawke utterly absorbing; “Professor Jonas” was a delight to watch. Wish we’d had a lot more of him. Even Deputy So and So was fantastic. Don’t know what the hell was supposed to have happened to him at Sinister 2’s ending. (I loved the Norwegian hell call, but as with Buguul, it was underdeveloped.

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