The unborn and the newborn are frequentltargets of the devil and other evil entities, if horror film history has taught of anything. In Shelley, there is once again something strange going on within a pregnant woman, in this occasionally creepy and especially familiar tale of dread and terror.
This Danish debut film from Abi Abbasi finds a couple, Louise and Kasper, desperate for a child they are unable to conceive. Fortunately for them, their young maid from Romania, Elena, is in financial desperate straights and pretty well-suited to carry a kid.
There are already some curious pieces at play. The relationship between Louise and Kasper has a certain sexual nature to it, but often they’re not together. They don’t live so much off the grid as without it, opting out of things like electricity. A literally dark film turns metaphorically dark when Elena agrees to be a surrogate, and things continue to get weird. The repercussions of this action are less tangible and more cerebral, as paranoia sets in with the understanding that somehow, something is wrong.
Abbasi is effective at creating situations that yield tension, but while the mysterious is initially compelling, when it stays mysterious throughout, the film falters. There are seldom payoffs, and little clarity. People are freaking out, but we don’t know exactly why.
What’s real and what isn’t is a big part of what Abbasi does towards the finale, and ahead of the final act there is a rather surprising development that significantly changes the movie, making this less a story with a hero or heroine for which to root, and more one where there is simply evil lurking that we hope won’t break free. Still, shrouding a film in darkness, placing it in a gothic environment, and cranking up the music every so often, does little to make a horror film horrifying.
Shelley screens again on August 2nd at 7:30 PM at the J.A. de Seve Theatre
- Rated: R
- Genre: Drama, Horror
- Release Date: 7/29/2016
- Directed by: Ali Abbasi
- Starring: Björn Andrésen, Cosmina Stratan, Ellen Dorrit Petersen
- Written by: Ali Abbasi, Maren Louise Käehne
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