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The Crack Magazine

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Holy Spider

Director: Ali Abbasi

Stars: Zar Amir-Ebrahimi, Mehdi Bajestani, Arash Ashtiani

Iranian Swedish-based filmmaker Abbasi’s follow-up to the underappreciated ‘Borders’ is a riveting and timely thriller, based on a true story, set in the early 2000s in the Iranian city of Mashhad. The titular Spider is a serial killer who targets sex workers. After wrapping his victims in a rug, the killer alerts the local newspaper to his crimes. Rahimi (Amir-Ebbrahami) is a no-nonsense journalist transferred from Tehran to Mashhad, following a scandal at her last workplace. At huge risk to herself, she infiltrates Mashhad’s underbelly in search of the Spider’s real identity. He is Saeed (Bajestani), a family man and local pillar of the community (not a spoiler). The authorities are worryingly ambivalent about catching the killer and the local men Rahimi encounters are uncooperative. Alarmingly, it becomes clear that for many the killer is a martyr, not a criminal. As well as a nerve-wracking thriller, this is a gritty, street-level sociological snapshot of noughties Iran (actually filmed in Jordan), which sketches out how hard it is for women to secure justice in an oppressively patriarchal system. Refreshingly, Abbasi also humanises the victims via rounded potted profiles, while Nadim Carlsen’s murky photography brings to mind such 90s genre fare as ‘Se7en’ and ‘Silence of the Lambs’. Rahimi is a wry and gutsy hero, while Bajestani’s Saeed chillingly brings to mind Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu’s ‘normal’ neighbourhood sociopath in George Sluizer’s ‘The Vanishing’. An epilogue grimly illustrates how attitudes are passed down generationally.

David Willoughby

Follow David on Twitter @DWill_Crackfilm