Holy Spider

Director: Ali Abbasi
Year Released: 2022
Rating: 2.0

In the city of Mashhad, a serial killer (Mehdi Bajestani) is "waging a jihad against vice" and luring prostitutes to his home and then strangling them, so investigative reporter Arezoo Rahimi (Zar Amir Ebrahimi) shows up to find out who it is, gets some input from journalist Sharifi (Arash Ashtiani) and eventually has to become a "lady of the night" herself to lure him in.  This is sadly based on a true story - the real Saeed Hanaei, a war veteran, was executed in 2001 for the murder of sixteen women - and what's chilling and disheartening is how there were individuals who "defended" his actions because he was removing "corrupt" people: this is what happens when religion and a suffocating environment combine to warp your mind.  But just as with 2019's The Golden Glove, the movie is significantly more fascinated with Saeed's narrative and all the seediness and violence (Abbasi's direction is a tad overheated) than with what should have been his actual lead in Arezoo, who feels almost like a supporting character (which kind of defeats the point).  As expected, Iran's "Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance" condemned Cannes for screening it and awarding Ebrahimi the Best Actress award (she was involved in a sex tape scandal) ... gosh darn it, Iran.