Iranian folk horror film Zalava is an incredible film that is a strong candidate for my “best of 2021” list. It is one of the most unique films dealing with exorcism that you are likely to see, with superb performances and an unsettling atmosphere designed to keep viewers guessing and on edge. Set in 1978 in the titular mountain town at the beginning of the Iranian revolution, the story sees Zalava’s villagers believing they are plagued by a demon. A skeptical military officer (Navid Pourforaj) wants the people to halt what he considers to be their superstitious nonsense — which includes non-fatally shooting those they believe to be possessed to release the demon from them — while the locals call in exorcist Amardan (Pouria Rahimi Sam) to help rid their village of the diabolical presence. A woman doctor (Hona Zeinolabedin), for whom the officer has strong if unstated feelings, has beliefs somewhere between the extreme ones of the two men, rationally thinking that the demon is a mere superstition but at the same time leaving her mind open to the fact that it could be real. Director Arsalan Amiri, who cowrote the tense, riveting screenplay with Tahmineh Bahramalian and Ida Panahandeh, does a masterful job of blending occult horror with engaging drama. You won’t believe how nerve-wracking the opening of a glass jar can be until you see this superb motion picture.
The Timekeepers of Eternity
Directed by Aristotelis Maragkos
★★★★ out of ★★★★★
Greek director Aristotelis Maragkos has crafted a black-and-white collage animation version of the 1995 TV miniseries adaptation of Stephen King’s The Langoliers, and the result —The Timekeepers of Eternity— is a mesmerizing work of art. Maragkos printed out original frames of the miniseries and then used them for his animation project, with jaw-dropping sequences featuring scenes layered one on top of the other, paper rips and holes revealing disembodied eyes, and much more. He also condensed the 3-hour original into a lean and mean 64-minute version with an ending different to that longer version. The Langoliers gets knocked for its CGI effects, but Maragkos eliminates that here by using creepy paper creatures and paper rips to recreate the airport attack scenes. The Timekeepers of Eternity is a combination art cinema project, labor of love, and eerie science fiction/horror tale. It truly needs to be seen to be believed.