The Reel Review


A female journalist must combat a climate of misogyny and a disinterested, complacent police force as she investigates the serial murders of street prostitutes in the Iranian holy city of Mashhad. This crime thriller is based on a true story of Saaed Hanaei, who killed 16 prostitutes from 2000 to 2001 in what he called a moral cleansing of “corrupt women.”

Amir Ebrahimi in Holy Spider

By telling the gritty story from both the serial killer and the female journalist’s perspective, writer/director Ali Abbasi (Border) explores the horrific effects of a misogynistic society that creates serial killers who truly believe their work is just and moral – and the resulting difficulty in obtaining justice for women. A foreboding score and dim lighting set a grim mood as the serial killer preys on his victims, hauling their bodies afterwards via motorcycle to his dumping ground.

Mehdi Bajestani in Holy Spider

Holy Spider languishes a bit in its third act, as the captured serial killer, shocked that he isn’t treated as a hero, awaits his fate. But Zar Amir-Ebrahimi is fascinating as the intrepid journalist, and the scene with her interviewing the man who almost succeeded in killing her (an also impressive Mehdi Bajestani) is riveting, as is the stomach-churning speech afterwards by his impressionable young son. Holy Spider a pulse-pounding glimpse inside an aspect of Iranian life that few Westerners ever see.


Zar Amir Ebrahimi at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival

• Zar Amir Ebrahimi, who fled Iran for France in 2008, was originally the casting director for Holy Spider before taking on the role which won her the Best Actress award at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival. Ebrahimi is also a producer and host for the BBC, including a program for the Persian branch of BBC World.

Saaed Hanaei was executed in April 2002

• Ali Abbasi says he was intrigued as a student by the story that was the basis for his film, shocked at how the police were so complacent and apprehensive in pursuing the serial killer.

Holy Spider was filmed in Jordan.


Video & Photo

1 videos

Write a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.