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HOLY SPIDER (2022, DAN-IRN) – 8.5/10

Ali Abbasi is an Iranian who arrived in Sweden from Tehran in the early 2000s to study. After graduating in architecture in Stockholm, he became interested in film and then graduated from the film academy in Copenhagen, where he still lives today. He drew attention to himself with the fantasy “Border” from 2018, which was also a Swedish candidate for the Oscar, for which he previously won an award in the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes festival, and for the next film he decided to return to his native country and shoot a dark and a shocking thriller based on true events. And that with the events from the time when he was packing his bags from Iran and moving to Europe, when a maniacal serial killer was rampaging through the second largest Iranian city, Mashhad, with its population of three million, located in the extreme northeast of the country.

Western cinema is full of thrillers about maniacal serial killers, psychopaths who go on their rampages unprovoked, but what is shocking about the Danish Oscar nominee is the fact that he is a killer whose actions are supported and welcomed by many. And while I guess in all other countries of the world that holy spider would be judged as a complete psychopath, in Iran that guy will almost become a national hero. Although Abbasi planned to shoot “Holy Spider” in Iran, he probably wasn’t too surprised when the authorities there didn’t allow him to do so. Therefore, Jordan had to “play” Iran, and as much as it is a classic thriller about trying to track down and stop a maniacal killer, “Holy Spider” is also an impressive drama about an authoritarian, misogynistic society.

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And from the very beginning it starts shockingly. We follow this one prostitute and heroin addict who buys a customer, and this middle-aged graying and bearded guy then takes her to the house on a motorbike and kills her. He just throws the body in the garbage, and then we realize that this guy is family man Saeed (Mehdi Bajestani), a veteran of the Iran-Iraq war who has set himself the mission of cleansing the city of sin and immorality. And you wouldn’t believe it, it’s not like the Iranian police are trying too hard to track down the killer who leaves his signature on the victims and anonymously tells the media where the bodies of the girls he kills are. And this has been going on for some time, nothing happens and while part of the city is in fear, another part celebrates the mysterious killer as a hero.


Investigative journalist Arezoo Rahimi (Iranian actress Zar Amir Ebrahimi with a French address who had to leave the country when she was banned from appearing on film and television for ten years after her homemade sexy video was released on the Internet) will also go into the investigation of the series of murders from Tehran. uradak), and already at the first obstacle we will see the subordinate position women are in there. After arriving in Mashhad, she tries to check in at the hotel, but when the receptionist realizes that she is alone and without a male escort, he claims that the hotel is full and that there is no room for her. Only after Rahimi throws her press card in front of him, the latter reluctantly takes her to the room, but with the suggestion that she cover her hair because the moral police there are rigorous and monitor such things.

When she realizes that the police, and especially not the courts, which are not classical, but religious courts run by priests, do nothing, Rahimi will try to find out who the killer is. And what’s the craziest thing of all, that maniac would probably be caught in a few hours by any intern from an American thriller, because the Holy Spider doesn’t really try to cover his tracks. Rahimi and I will get to know the Iranian night world, because no matter how hard the moral police try and how much everyone moralizes, those nocturnal animals are probably the same in all big cities and there will always be those who will use the services of either dealers or prostitutes.

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However, here everything seems to be even more cruel, more brutal, especially for women, and Abbasi made perhaps an even better, more well-rounded film after “Border”, which critics have rightly ranked at the very top of European film production in 2022. It is a great film, among other things, because there is no classic culmination like in a standard thriller, but also some unwritten rules of the genre are influenced by the objective circumstances of the place where the action takes place and the social spirit. The actors are excellent, both Zar Amir Ebrahimi, who already won the award for best actress in Cannes, and Mehdi Bajestani as a complete maniac who literally freezes the blood in our veins every time we see him. An excellent film that is not only a first-class thriller, but also an undisguised social criticism of a totalitarian system in which not much has changed since the time when the Holy Spider was on the prowl.