Each person carries with them regrets. Secrets. Sins. All are burdens placed on their shoulders, wearing away at their souls until it either becomes too much or it gets taken to the grave. This feels especially so in relationships, where each party brings their own secrets into a relationship. These secrets can wear away at the bond between a couple but, if the truth is revealed, it can potentially mend bridges. If the truth is not, it could spell doom. This and much more can be grasped from Kourosh Ahari‘s THE NIGHT. In the film, it examines the secrets we carry, the madness it can bring, and much more.
Tensions are already prickling when the film begins. The audience is introduced to Babak (Shabab Hossein) and Neda (Niousha Jafarian), who are at a party over at their friends’ place. Things are tense between them, seemingly exasperated by needing to check in on their infant daughter throughout the course of the evening. As the festivities draw to an end, an intoxicated Babak insists on driving the family home. But, after a near accident on the road, the pair make the decision to spend the night at a hotel as neither of them is functional enough to make it home. However, things start to get strange after checking in. Both Babak and Neda find themselves trapped within the hotel with little-to-no escape and are forced to come forward with the secrets they’ve kept from each other. And, until they do, they are trapped in a forever night, with nowhere else to go but each other.
The slow-building tension in THE NIGHT is a great lesson for all in how to eke out the suspense. Akin to slowly boiling a frog alive, the nerves and madness that are left to grow onscreen feel naturally organic. A large part of this is due to the performances conveyed by Shabab Hossein and Niousha Jafarian onscreen. Both give effortless performances, convincing the audience of their marital problems and the growing divide that threatens to tear them apart. And, while both characters are flawed and carry irredeemable secrets, there’s nuance and humanity conveyed that emphasizes the strength of the performances delivered.
While the two leads gave memorable performances, there were supporting performances that deserved recognition in THE NIGHT. George Maguire’s hotel receptionist was memorable, with a subtle creepiness. When the audience gets to one particular scene featuring his receptionist character, there’s no way anyone would be able to look away. Elester Latham’s displaced man character serves as a messenger of sorts and, while another brief role onscreen, injects ambiguity into the role that makes him all the more memorable. Unfortunately, the one sour note performance-wise from the film came with the introduction of the police officer (Michael Graham). While featured briefly in the film, the delivery came off over-the-top which, when contrasted against his scene partners, made it difficult not to notice.
While the performances were mostly top-notch across the board, the story itself stands on its own feet. Many will draw comparisons to The Shining, with the haunted hotel setting found within Hotel Normandie, long shots down hallways, notable walkthroughs of an abandoned ballroom, ghost children, and more. However, THE NIGHT is its own entity. With foreshadowing and exquisite editing cuts to enhance the rapidly descending madness taking hold of Babak and Neda, the audience is led to question the characters’ sanity and whether or not the events taking place are truly happening. This is a particular testament to Ahari’s editing working in tandem with the script he and co-writer Milad Jarmooz constructed.
This is not to say that there aren’t questions from the story that lingers for viewers after the first viewing. This reviewer is curious to know further about the particular inclusion of Hotel Normandie as well as the symbolism of the tattoos Babak and Neda had. That and whether or not the inclusion of the black cat featured throughout the film might be connected to the djinn. If so, this might change how audiences might approach certain aspects of the film. With little breadcrumbs of mythos peppered in, it does ignite further curiosity that Ahari might explore in future projects.
As directorial debuts go, Kourosh Ahari’s THE NIGHT is strong. The film itself is psychologically compelling, with tension slowly being driven higher the further the audience retreats into the film. The scares and thrills are delivered effectively, with the sound design creeping under the skin for maximum impact. In particular, composer Nima Fakhrara delivers music that amplifies the tension further. And, to top everything off, the performances delivered by Shabab Hossein and Niousha Jafarian provide the necessary special ingredient to pull everything together. Highly recommend this film.
THE NIGHT will be released on Friday, January 29, 2021, in select theatres and on digital and VOD platforms, from IFC Midnight.
As a general warning for light-sensitive/epileptic prone individuals, there’s a significant strobe effect used around the hour and 8-minute mark. It lasts around a minute.