ZALAVA is an amazing psychological thriller from Iran. It’s about the power of belief and tradition. The movie is currently playing at film festivals worldwide and we just screened it at Fantastic Fest 2021. Read our full Zalava movie review here!

ZALAVA is a psychological thriller from Iran that surprised me in all the right ways. The production quality is extremely impressive. No, not “just” for being a movie from Iran, but simply because it is very well made and looks stunning. Also, both the cast and plot works remarkably well.

The movie takes place in Iran in 1978, so the country still has a king and a female doctor is out on assignment from the government. If you watched Under the Shadow (read our review here), then the setting might be familiar.

However, Under the Shadow (2016) did play out in a city in the 1980s, so it’s different in that sense. But the production and storytelling are on the same level for this new movie.

Continue reading our Zalava movie review below.

How sure are you of your convictions?

Very early on, it’s evident that the people living in a rural village in the mountain have their own belief system. They believe in demons and they trust a shaman to save them from the demon. Also, if they think someone is possessed then they avoid killing that person by shooting them in the leg and forcing an exorcism.

This includes the removal of skin. By looking at the people in the village, just about everyone has been touched by a demon at some point. But hey, they stick together and the goal is always to save each other and keep their homes and crops safe.

In essence, Zalava is all about the power of belief and tradition. So, when a military officer is skeptical, he is forced to confront his beliefs by the shaman. How sure are you that demons don’t exist? And are you ready to risk everyone to test your own convictions?

This might sound like a simple plot. And it is! However, the way in which this story is told turned out to be very elegant and realistic. Also, it is scary as all hell at several points.

Zalava – Review [Fantastic Fest]

Check out Zalava for an amazing filmwatching experience!

Zalava was directed by Arsalan Amiri who also co-wrote the screenplay with Tahmineh Bahramalian and Ida Panahandeh. This is the feature film debut of Arslan Amiri as a director. As an editor and writer, he has several productions under his belt.

Ida Panahandeh is his wife and an acclaimed director in her own right. In 2011, she directed her feature film debut The Story of Davood and the Dove and then in 2015 came the acclaimed Nahid. Both movies were written by herself and her husband, so the two really are a filmmaker force of nature.

We watched this movie as part of Fantastic Fest 2021, but it played at both Venice and Toronto International Film Festival prior to this. It works both for genre audiences and wider audiences. Much like the earlier mentioned Under the Shadow, it utilizes horror and thriller elements to highlight very real issues.

We screened ZALAVA at Fantastic Fest 2021.


Director: Arsalan Amiri
Writers: Arsalan Amiri, Tahmineh Bahramalian, Ida Panahandeh
Stars: Navid Pourfaraj, Hoda Zeinolabedin, Puria Rahimi Sam, Baset Rezaei


Investigating reports of demonic possessions in a remote village, a skeptical military officer finds his beliefs tested by an enigmatic exorcist.

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
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