By: Liam Parker
Gripping, uncomfortable, and raw, Holy Spider is a captivating film that explores the moral pitfalls and conspiracies of the seedy underground of Iran.
Directed by Border’s Ali Abassi,’Holy Spider plays like a crime drama with a unique twist – it is not a whodunnit. Instead, the viewers watch two sides of the same story unfold. The first follows journalist Rahimi (Zar Amir-Ebrahimi, Tehran Taboo) and her pursuit of Iran’s contemporary to Jack the Ripper, the “Spider Killer.” The second side of the story follows the killer himself, Saeed (Mehdi Bajestani, Davaran & There are Things You Don’t Know). The two sides weave together in a tale that is bleak, upsetting, and at times downright grotesque.
It should be noted that this film is certainly not for the faint of heart; not that it contains frightening imagery or gore, instead, its dark, near unfeeling portrayals of violence towards women will leave a nauseous feeling in your stomach and a sour taste in your mouth. In that vein, do not choose this film if you are looking for a lighthearted romp in which you can simply turn off your brain. Holy Spider’s themes of religious moral relativity, gender roles, and psychosexual violence blend beautifully to paint an image that is heartbreaking. The film itself is competently made, maintaining a steady sense of anxiety and dread within its viewers. My only complaint of the film is its runtime, as the narrative they presented could easily have fit into 90 minutes. Holy Spider nearly pushes two hours, and it does not need to be that long.
Holy Spider is a remarkable film; its bleak atmosphere, anti-corruption message, and unflinching cinematography make it a solid entry into Abassi’s ever-growing filmography.