Shelley (film)

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Shelley (film).png
Film poster
Directed by Ali Abbasi
Written by Ali Abbasi
Starring Ellen Dorrit Petersen
Release date
  • 14 February 2016 (2016-02-14) (Berlin)
  • 1 December 2016 (2016-12-01) (Denmark)
Running time
92 minutes
Country Denmark
Language Danish

Shelley is a 2016 Danish drama horror film directed by Ali Abbasi and starring Ellen Dorrit Petersen.[1] It was shown in the Panorama section at the 66th Berlin International Film Festival.[2]


The film opens with a young Romanian woman, Elena, being driven to the home of her new employers, Danish couple Louise and Kasper. Louise and Kasper are a wealthy couple living in near-isolation in a lakehouse in the forest. Kasper explains that Elena was hired for some extra help because Louise has been weakened by recent surgery. The couple lives without electricity and lives off the food they grow, as well as eggs from the chicken coop they keep, and the only communication with the outside world is through a simple landline phone. Although Elena hears a few unusual noises at the house, she otherwise fits in easily.

Elena is put off at first by the eccentric and withdrawn Louise, who seems to be afraid of electricity and talks to herself, but the two quickly bond as Elena falls into routine at the house. Elena reveals that she has a five-year-old son living with her parents, and she is saving money to buy the two of them an apartment of their own, though she estimates that she would need to save for years before achieving the goal. Louise in turn confides that, though she and Kasper want a child, she cannot carry one to term. Later, as their friendship deepens, Louise reveals that she had frozen some of her eggs, and she asks if Elena would carry a child for her and Kasper. In return, Louise and Kasper would buy an apartment for Elena after she gave birth. After some thought, Elena agrees, much to the chagrin of her parents. Meanwhile, Louise is visited by Leo, a friend of the family and psychic guru who tries to expel bad energy from Louise's body to help her heal.

Though Elena feels somewhat unusual after the insemination, the doctor assures her that everything is fine. Elena proceeds as normal for a few months, though she grows uncomfortable with a number of bizarre events: the chickens in the coop all become frightened of her, she begins to hear more strange sounds, and she suffers from several hallucinations. She also begins to have nightmares, one involving a dead baby and the other of a blood-drenched Louise talking to her about "Shelley." Others react strangely as well: the son of family friends punches Elena's stomach without warning, and Leo, invited to try to help Elena, senses bad energy coming from her stomach and learns that Elena believes the baby is killing her. Leo is disturbed and seems aware that something is amiss. As the pregnancy advances, Elena begins to deteriorate rapidly, losing weight, becoming frequently exhausted, waking with blood around her mouth, scratching herself, and adopting unusual eating habits. All of this is ignored by the doctor, who insists that it is normal behavior when pregnant; she also reveals that the baby is a girl, right before the ultrasound machine mysteriously shuts down. Elena insists that something is wrong.

Elena's condition further worsens as she nears the due date. She is frequently exhausted and exhibits strange behavior, such as reacting with pain when Louise bathes her. After this incident, she begins to violently attack her stomach, screaming that she wants the baby out of her, upsetting Louise. Louise later finds her out of the house and wandering down the road in the middle of the night, and later, sitting in the chicken coop, having attacked and apparently tried to eat the chickens. A weakened Elena demands to go home, but Louise insists to Kasper that if she leaves, her parents would take her and the baby forever. They reluctantly keep Elena, though Louise keeps a closer eye on her. One afternoon, Elena steals one of Louise's knitting needles when Louise leaves to get her water, and Louise returns to find that Elena has used it to try to give herself an abortion.

Elena dies from internal bleeding as a result of the attempt, but the baby is unharmed. Louise and Kasper take her home, naming her Shelley. Louise bonds instantly with Shelley and dotes on her, but Kasper admits to a friend that he does not feel a bond with the girl. Shelley demonstrates similar bizarre behavior: like Elena, she scares the chickens and reacts with pain when water is poured on her. When Leo visits the house, he becomes shaken and disturbed at the sight of Shelley, sensing something evil, and leaves immediately, shocking Louise. Kasper reacts to Shelley oddly as well: he insists that she is making strange clicking noises that Louise doesn't hear, dislikes being around her, and becomes unresponsive and shell-shocked, later cutting open his leg while chopping wood. He also has a nightmare involving Elena. He is disturbed to find that Shelley is unusually calm and unresponsive, even when he is about to punch her. He also suffers from telekinetic infrasound and blames it on Shelley. Louise believes none of this and is upset by Kasper's behavior.

One night, Louise has a strange dream and wakes to find Shelley gone. She finds her in the car with Kasper, who revs the engine and continues to be unresponsive. Furious, she kills Kasper with the car door and takes Shelley back inside. Shaken, Louise sits on the bed with her as an unidentified man in black stands in the room with her. The film ends with Louise and Shelley alone, with no explanation for the events of the film.



  1. ^ "Shelley". DFI. Retrieved 23 October 2016. 
  2. ^ "Berlinale 2016: Panorama 2016 Complete". Berlinale. Archived from the original on 24 January 2016. Retrieved 23 January 2016. 

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