HOLY SPIDER is expanding to nationwide US theaters on January 13, 2023. We follow the hunt for a religiously motivated serial killer, who kills women in Iran. It is brutal, important, and – in the most terrible way – acutely relevant. Read our Holy Spider movie review here!

HOLY SPIDER is a crime thriller that is now being released nationwide in US theaters. The film has already won awards at, among others, Cannes Film Festival and is the official Oscar bid from Denmark. We follow the hunt for a religiously motivated serial killer. He kills women in the holy city of Mashhad in Iran.

It is an eerily relevant movie, which seems more relevant than ever when watched in light of the current events in Iran.  Whether you watch it to better understand the current tensions and rebellion happening in Iran or as a solid serial killer story, it is definitely a film worth watching.

Continue reading our Holy Spider movie review below. The release of this film is expanding to nationwide US theaters on January 13, 2023.

Based on real events

For us here at Heaven of Horror, the obvious comparison was the very violent The Golden Glove (2019). This is a German film about a serial killer. One that contains extremely violent and brutal scenes, but is based on facts. Both the serial killer in Holy Spider and the one in The Golden Glove are based on real events. As such, they fall into the “true crime” subgenre.

Holy Spider is based on the true story of Saeed Hanaei, who was called “The Spider Killer”. He stood proudly by his deeds as he claimed to be on a divine mission. It consisted of cleaning up Iran’s holiest city.

The clean-up consisted of him, in the years 2000 and 2001, killing 16 sex workers in Mashhad.

What is especially creepy about Holy Spider is the development that happens after the serial killer is caught. There are a lot of people who have sympathy for Saeed Hanaei’s mission. They support him and hail him as a hero who is truly on a divine mission.

Holy Spider (2022) – Review | Serial Killer Thriller

The usual excuse

It is not the first time that a serial killer has focused on sex workers. Sadly, it also isn’t the first time the media and the public have focused on this detail as the police released information about the victims.

Just as with Jack the Ripper (and The Yorkshire Ripper), this was the main focus. However, in recent years, many have started looking at the facts again. It turns out that in both cases, only some (if any) of the victims were in fact sex workers. This is by no means to say that it’s somehow more acceptable if the victims were sex workers.

Rather, it’s an excuse that seems to suit the police, because the pressure to find the killer is then less intense. It’s extremely sad but also proven to be very true.

This is precisely why a female journalist is fighting to focus on these crimes in Holy Spider. She sees that these cases are mentioned briefly and not dealt with (or investigated) in any meaningful capacity. So, she travels to the holy Iranian city of Mashhad, where she has every intention of finding the serial killer.

The journalist Rahimi is played by Zar Amir-Ebrahimi, who (from the very first scene) is insanely strong. And we also quickly see the identity of the serial killer. We follow him as he becomes more sloppy and desperate – we also keep following him after his arrest. He is played by Mehdi Bajestani, who manages to be both nuanced and concrete.

You should watch Holy Spider in theaters – or Netflix later!

Ali Abbasi has directed Holy Spider, which he also co-wrote with Afshin Kamran Bahrami. It is the third feature film from Ali Abbasi, who previously made the horror movie Shelley (2016) and the genre hybrid Border (2018).

Most recently, he has directed a number of episodes of the upcoming The Last of Us TV series adaptation. One of the most anticipated new series of 2023. We’ve already started watching screeners for it and it is amazing!

Holy Spider is an insanely powerful film, as the focus is set squarely on just how easily he manages to kill so many women. He finds the victims in the same place every time, but the police can’t even be bothered to stake out the place. In essence, the police are helping this serial killer on his divine mission.

As mentioned many times in past reviews, stories like this – based on real events that should never have happened – are much creepier to me than actual horror films. A highly relevant and valid cautionary tale as proven by the current rebellion in Iran.

For the record though, the recommendation to watch Holy Spider is mainly due to the acting being fantastic. Also, the story of the serial killer – and the society he lives and thrives in as a killer – is harrowing and important.

HOLY SPIDER will expand to nationwide theaters in the US on January 13, 2023. Also, it will be added to Netflix in the US on April 7, 2023.


Director: Ali Abbasi
Writers: Ali Abbasi, Afshin Kamran Bahrami
Cast: Mehdi Bajestani, Zar Amir Ebrahimi


In HOLY SPIDER, we follow family man Saeed as he embarks on his own religious quest – to “cleanse” the holy Iranian city of Mashhad of immoral and corrupt street prostitutes. After murdering several women, he grows ever more desperate about the lack of public interest in his divine mission.

I write reviews and recaps on Heaven of Horror. And yes, it does happen that I find myself screaming, when watching a good horror movie. I love psychological horror, survival horror and kick-ass women. Also, I have a huge soft spot for a good horror-comedy. Oh yeah, and I absolutely HATE when animals are harmed in movies, so I will immediately think less of any movie, where animals are harmed for entertainment (even if the animals are just really good actors). Fortunately, horror doesn't use this nearly as much as comedy. And people assume horror lovers are the messed up ones. Go figure!
Karina "ScreamQueen" Adelgaard