Critics of Hugues Dayez: ‘Holy Spider’, chilling Iranian thriller

The action of the film, freely inspired by real events, takes place in Iran in 2001. Rahimi, a journalist from Tehran, arrives in the holy city of Mashhad to investigate a series of feminicides. In her approaches and her interviews, she very quickly came up against the reluctance and ill will of the official authorities. Because the serial killer – called “Holy Spider” – attacks the prostitutes of the city, certain authorities want to hush up the affair because to advertise it is to bring to light this reality, prostitution, which they want to deny. What’s more, Rahimi is a modern woman, non-believer, and disturbs the religious power of Mashhad.

Ali Abbasi, Danish filmmaker born in Tehran, remembers the “Holy Spider” affair which hit the headlines in his country of origin at the start of the 2000s. In his film, he chose to show the identity of the killer, who believes invested with a mission of purification by eliminating these women of “bad life”. The character of Rahimi is a creation of the director, which allows him to show the unenviable status of women in Iranian societythe hypocrisies which plague Mashhad, “holy city” on the one hand, crossroads of many illicit activities on the other hand.

Much more than a thrilling thriller, “Holy spider” is a scalpel study of a country’s contradictionsand it is in this capacity that it is exciting. (Obviously, the filming did not take place in Iran but in Jordan, the production is European, and the main actress like the director now live in exile.)

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