Night, The

Reviewed By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 01/28/21 12:26:03

"Things That Go دست انداز In the Night"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

Since it is centered on a creepy old hotel that appears to be filled with spirits hell-bent on psychologically fomenting a family that is unable to escape its clutches, it is certain that virtually every review of “The Night” will at some point make either references or comparisons to “The Shining.” Those may be inevitable, I suppose, but this film from Iranian-American filmmaker Kourosh Ahari (the first American production to be allowed to screen commercially in Iran since 1979) soon proves to be a stylish and effective chiller in its own right.

As the film opens, Babak (Shahab Hosseini) and Neda (Niousha Jafarian), an Iranian couple living in L.A. with their infant daughter, are heading home from a dinner party late one night but the combination of a few too many shots on Babak’s part, a malfunctioning GPS and the sudden appearance of a black cat derail those plans. Exhausted, they decide to spend the rest of the night in a hotel and this leads them to the Hotel Normandie, a rambling old place whose front desk in manned by a mysterious and unnamed receptionist (George Maguire) who sends them up to their room. Although it seems as if the hotel is completely devoid of anyone else—guests or staff—that proves to be not quite the case and as the frazzled Babak and Neda try to finally get some rest, they are constantly being disturbed by a series of increasingly malevolent sights and sounds and to make matters worse, they find their efforts to leave stymied as well. As they try to make it through the night (which seems to be going on forever), it becomes apparent that their current situation has a strange connection to long-buried issues in their own marriage, chiefly involving the period of time five years earlier when Barak had left for the U.S. and Need was unable to join him.

Of course, you don’t have to be an expert in the horror genre to quickly surmise that the likelihood of Babak, Neda and their daughter having a restful night’s sleep and leaving the next morning after hitting the breakfast bar is pretty slim at best. However, what the film lacks in originality (other than the nationality of its main characters), it makes up for in terms of the undeniably stylish manner in which it deploys those familiar elements. This may be Ahari’s debut feature but you wouldn’t be able to tell that from the assured manner in which he handles the material, proving to be equally adept at handling both extended sequences based around slowly mounting sensations of tension and dread and the equally well-staged jump scares that he drops in from time to time to great effect. Helping Ahari immeasurably in his task are the often-startling efforts of cinematographer Maz Makhani, the creepy score from Nima Fakhara and the stellar performances from the two leads. Granted, the middle stretch of the film may run a little long but it more than makes up for it with a fairly spellbinding final stretch that makes it the rare recent horror film that gets better as it goes along.

Combining enough solid shocks to satisfy genre buffs with a dramatic foundation strong enough to appeal those who might not ordinarily spend time on a mere horror movie, “The Night” is a strong and eerie work that will have viewers looking forward to whatever it is that Ahari does next and looking askance at everything the next time they have to stay at a hotel themselves.

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