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Holy Spider

HOLY SPIDER blurs the boundaries between social drama and thriller. In the pilgrimage site Mashhad, deeply religious serial killer Saeed is killing prostitutes in order to “purify“ the city.


HOLY SPIDER, set in the Iranian city of Mashhad – the city where 22 year old Mahsa Amini was killed by the “moral police“ because she didn‘t wear a headscarf correctly – is a film of unplanned, oppressive timeliness. Ali Abbasi (BORDER) tells the story of serial killer Saeed Hanaei who murders prostitutes and is coined the “spider murderer“ in the pilgrimage site Masshad which is based on real events. Saeed (Mehdi Bajestani) is a deeply religious family father and contractor during the day. In the evenings, when the wife and children are at their grandparents, he gets on his scooter, picks up prostitutes on the street, takes them home and strangles them. The film repeatedly follows Saeed as he carries out his “mission“ in many night scenes.

Abbasi films the murders with a lot of disturbing precision. You briefly get to know the personality and life situation of the women, then they encounter Saeed, whose cold zealotry doesn‘t recognize individuals, only “dirt“ that he wants to eliminate. You keep hoping that they don‘t get on his scooter. In these scenes it becomes painfully obvious how helpless the women are – not just sex workers, but all women and not just at alone at night on the street, but in all public and private spheres in their lives. If they‘re lucky they don‘t encounter a murderer, but they would be legally helpless and unprotected if faced with violence or lies.

This is also the case for journalist Rahimi (Silver Palme winner for Best Actress at Cannes: Zar Amir Ebrahimi), who is investigating the case in a parallel narrative plotline and keeps being met with resistance and is very careful to never be alone with a man. Some of the hurdles in her way are misogynistically directed against modern women, others are motivated be politics and religion: the “spider murderer“ seems to be tolerated by those in power in the city, if not actively supported. This suspicion is substantiated in the subsequent trial, when Saeed becomes a hero among some segments of the population. HOLY SPIDER straddles the border between social drama and thriller. What is almost more nightmarish than the physical violence is the atmosphere of religious radicalism and the total oppression of all the women in the city.


Translation: Elinor Lewy


Dänemark/ Deutschland/ Frankreich/ Schweden 2022, 115 min
Language: Persian
Genre: Drama, Crime
Director: Ali Abbasi
Author: Ali Abbasi, Afshin Kamran Bahrami
DOP: Nadim Carlsen
Montage: Olivia Neergaard-Holm
Music: Martin Dirkov
Distributor: Alamode Film
Cast: Zar Amir-Ebrahimi, Mehdi Bajestani, Arash Ashtiani, Forouzan Jamshidnejad, Sina Parvaneh
Release: 12.01.2023




  • OV Original version
  • OmU Original with German subtitles
  • OmeU Original with English subtitles
English/with English subtitles
All languages

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