Girls' Dormitory: Women's Islam and Iranian Horror



This article concerns representations of popular Muslim belief and practice in modern Iran. Of primary interest here will be a horror film called Khvabgah-i dukhtaran/Girls' Dormitory, in which a young woman becomes the target of a crazed killer claiming to be under the command of jinn. I discuss how the film, which some have reported is of particular appeal to young girls and women, engages with elite discourses on the essentially female character of popular (religious) culture. I also examine what the “horror” of the film reveals about many people's understandings of cosmology and anthropology in Iran, especially with respect to the modern articulation of a “national theology.” Such understandings in turn problematize the film's place in horror cinema from a Western perspective and perhaps explain the genre's relative absence from Iranian screens over the years. Finally, I turn to the broader significance of this release in terms of filmmaking and filmgoing in Iran as well as its possible connections to female-centered horror film movements elsewhere.