Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Shelley (2016)

 Ali Abbasi


Ali Abbasi
Maren Louise Kaehne


Ellen Dorrit Peterson
Cosmina Stratan
Peter Christoffersen
Bjorn Andresen
Marlon Kindberg Bach
Kenneth M. Christensen
Marianne Mortensen
Patricia Schumann


Louise and Kasper are a Danish couple who live an isolated life. They don't have any technology or electricity. The couple also live in the mountains and far away from the rest of civilisation. Louise is unable to have children, but her biggest dream is to have a child. When they hire a Romanian maid by the name of Elena, they fo and make a deal that if Elena can be their surrogate, they will pay for her to return home to see her son. When Elena accepts, things don't go as planned.

In the realm of horror, the evil kids sub-genre is one that's seen its fair share of films. What's scarier than an innocent child turning evil and brutalising their parents? We've seen countless movies over the decades, come and go that show evil kids in all forms. Some have come to be regarded as masterpieces, while others have been completely forgotten or downright terrible. Shelley is the latest evil kid film to see a release but where does it land on the spectrum?

Going into Shelley and based on the movie's poster. I expected to see a film that had its fair share of blood and carnage. I also expected a movie that may end up turning very dark towards the end of the film. I don't know why but seeing a stroller inside a pregnant woman who is oozing blood had a very insidious vibe to it all. I was shocked to learn that after watching the movie that this is a rather low-key affair. This is mood over gore and violence.

I think the biggest issue that many will face with Shelley is that it's an incredibly dark film. I think many will be under the impression that they will witness something really twisted and disturbing based on the poster and be left somewhat disappointed when they discover that this is a movie that really isn't all that horrifying. While the movie does have several elements that lend itself to the horror genre. The vast majority of it's running time, the film feels more akin to drama.

When I say that Shelley is sombre, I also have to make note that the movie is very slow in its build up towards its rather horror-centric final. During it's running time, the film has moments that may make some of its more sensitive viewers a little uneasy. I found myself wanting more though when it came to the horror elements of the story. I felt the movie lacked a little. I think what the director and writer were going for was a sense of slow-burning dread that I just wish wasn't so slow.

Another problem that I think Shelley will face is the ambiguity of it all. This is a film that never has any straight answers for the audience. The movie doesn't give much away in the end. I feel that the writer and director have left it up to the audience for interpretation. While I think this is a neat idea, in theory, it's a little bit frustrating as we are left scratching our heads. Vagueness can be a good thing sometimes, I just wish we got more of an explanation from Shelley.

We never find out why this baby causes people to change or turn hostile? Is the baby really evil? Why can't Louise hear the sounds that Kasper talks about that is sending him insane? It's all left to us, yet I was left with questions more than answers at the end. I still think I have my theory about what this movie means but I would love to hear what people think their interpretations of what Shelley is all about. Let me know in the comments section.

Now onto the acting in Shelley. The performances are fantastic. 
Ellen Dorrit Peterson delivers the bravest performance in the film. A scene towards the end which involves a man putting his fist up inside her looked so realistic that I have to wonder was this filmed for real. Cosmina Stratan as Elena was also excellent. Her gradual shift from happy to crazy was a great descent into madness. I loved and enjoyed both the lead performances. The ladies carried this movie.

Lastly, director Ali Abbasi did a fantastic job with this movie. The cinematography was great. The movie at times looked gorgeous. I think a lot of natural light was used and the forest and lake setting also added a sense of calmness to the slow building dread towards the end of the movie. I assume Shelley had a minimal budget, but the crew was able to deliver a very intimate and beautiful looking horror drama. Can't wait to see what Ali Abbasi does next.



- A child punches a pregnant woman in the stomach.
- A house is seen bleeding.
- A woman repeatedly hits herself in her pregnant belly.
- A man is repeatedly slammed in a car door.
- A man hits himself in the leg with an axe.
- A man fists his wife.
- A knitting needle is used to try and abort a baby.

Shelley is a movie that doesn't offer up any easy answers. This is a movie that asks you to make up your own mind about the events that take place. I believe this movie will have many audience members scratching their heads. It will be one that divides people and opinions. The film while being an extremely slow-burn sort of story in its build-up, if you stick around long enough, you will be rewarded with one beautifully acted and intimate horror drama that will leave some viewers uneasy. Shelley is definitely worth a watch. It's worth witnessing this evil birth.


  1. Just saw this recently and enjoyed it. It almost had a calm to all the horror.

    1. Thanks for the comment.

      I agree on the calmness of the film. The setting plays a big part in that. The location is just as important in building the slow-burn horror to it all.