A mother’s strongest power is perhaps unconditional love. I had put my own mommy dearest through Hell and back for years and yet she still thinks I’m special. Shelley, on the other hand, is not like any other devil child. She lives and breathes pure evil, but her mother will stop at nothing to keep her alive and safe… even if it means putting others in harm’s way.
New wave hippy couple Louise (played by the Ellen Dorrit Peterson) and Kasper (played by Peter Christoffersen) are unable to conceive a child. After discovering that their maid Elena (played by Cosmina Straten) already has a child of her own, Louise convinces her to become a surrogate in exchange for a large sum of money and the chance to reunite with her son sooner. As Elena becomes deathly ill, she fears that the thing growing inside her womb is trying to killer her. But Louise is determined to ensure that this baby is born.
The feature film debut of Ali Abbasi, Shelley is quite clearly an updated retelling of Ira Levin and Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby, only this time the story follows the maternal fears of two mothers helping to create one evil child. From the 1968 film to this 2016 modernization, a lack of gender progression can be deducted in that even in Shelley, we see the image of a reluctant father, showing avoidant, neglectful behavior and reacting as if the child were a burden. Perhaps this is a misrepresentation of fathers today, but more often than not, art seems to imitate life.
The absent father routine, however, is not the most disturbing aspect of Shelley. Although the film appears to move at a slow pace, the finale will send a fully charged shock down your spine. The graphic display of poking and prodding at the most fragile parts of a woman cannot be unseen. Hold onto your ovaries, ladies! This film is going to sting you with terror when you least expect it.
If you are experiencing even a mild case of baby fever this summer, IFC Midnights is turning Shelley loose on July 29th.