FANTASTIC FEST: Zalava (2021)

In 1978 Kurdistan, so close to an Iran about to change forever, the village of Zalava is cursed by demons or so the locals believe. To stop those who have been taken over by the dark ones, they use bloodletting as a form of lo-fi exorcism. But now a non-believing military man named Masoud wants to stop that from happening, but his initial efforts lead only to the town growing even more angry.

So when the shaman — or oil snake saleman — Amardan shows up and claims he can stop the demons, even Masoud might be willing to listen. Or Kurdistan is going to burn. But can you really keep demons locked up in a glass jar?

Seriously — I’ve never been more freaked out by a glass jar than director Arsalan Amiri has made me. That’s a major feat.

Between a man who believes in the rational, one who sees the spiritual and a doctor who believes in science but won’t discount that the darkness may be real, Zalava is a real nail biter and a very different take on the exorcism film.

Zalava is playing Fantastic Fest. When it starts streaming, we’ll update this article.

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