In the suspenseful thriller THE NIGHT, a young Iranian family living in the US find themselves spending the night in a hotel after a tense night out with friends. As a malevolent energy torments the family, Babak (Shahab Hosseini) and Neda’s (Niousha Jafarian) deeply guarded secrets are summoned from their dark hiding places.
Recently, for the release of the film, Nightmarish Conjurings had the chance to speak with Iranian filmmaker Kourosh Ahari and Iranian superstar Shahab Hosseini about everything from filming at the infamous Normandie Hotel to their favorite horror films. (Interview may contain brief spoilers).
Shahab, can you talk a little bit about what drew you to the role of Babak Naderi?
Shahab Hosseini: What I found interesting about the movie, whether I’m acting or directing, I look at it from the perspective of a member of the audience. When I watch a movie, in addition to enjoying the film, I would like that movie to say something good, to have a lesson or a point about life. The point of the movie, what the movie was saying is that the things that we do in the past, as much as we try to forget them, they come to haunt us. Their shadow follows us and they create nightmares. And many of the nightmares that we are undergoing right now are things that have happened or the result of things that have happened in the past. So, as a member of the audience, I really liked this theme. As much as I liked working with [producers] Alex Bretow and Kourosh Ahari, and as much as I love the fact that this was a joint Iranian-American production, I really also liked the main theme of the movie. I liked that as an actor and I liked that as a member of the audience, and I think that this theme was conveyed to the audience.
Kourosh, did you actually film inside Hotel Normandie, and if so, what was the decision behind focusing the setting there? Also, were you familiar with its past in terms of it being a haunted hotel?
Kourosh Ahari: We did – everything from the lobby to the rooms to corridors, everything was shot on location. In terms of the hotel itself, we had heard a few things. There were a couple of events that had happened, whether that’s true or not I can’t confirm. What really was interesting in terms of the hotel, I said this in my previous interview too, is that for us, the location had a certain presentation of the world that we’re living in. We check into this world, very much like we’re checking into a hotel, and how we check out is the key. The original screenplay was instead in a home and they were coming back from the gathering and their friend’s party. We wanted to give it a little bit more depth and we brought it to a hotel for that purpose, not intentionally just to make it in a hotel for our film. The location was actually a key factor to what’s happening to them in the real world.
Shahab, were you given much of a backstory about your character prior to filming? What do you think drives your character to make the choices that he makes?
Shahab Hosseini: There was a time in the past that I had an intense fever which lasted more or less about 24 hours. I was in a state of mind similar to this, so I found that to be familiar territory. It was like a nightmare from which I could not wake up and I remember the atmosphere from that incident. As far as my drive and motivation, it’s about someone who no matter how much he tries, he cannot hide the truth. As much as he tries to hide the truth, he does not succeed in doing so. At the end of the film, when he finally thinks that he is done with it, we see that this continues, and it will continue until such time that he comes to accept this truth and confesses to it. The conversation that I had with Kourosh, as the filmmaker, we discussed our mutual experiences, and I must say that as filmmakers, most of our efforts is not only to just make the audience scared in addition to making the audience perhaps excited, the more important thing we’re trying to do is convey the inner truth that is hidden inside of that. I believe that was my primary motivation in this.
Kourosh, can you talk a little bit about the symbolism seen throughout the film, especially in regards to the tattoo and the black cat?
Kourosh Ahari: There are certain elements in the movie, such as the black cat, the tattoo, and a few other things that…all the answers are in the movie, I promise you that (laughs). I mean, disclaimer, what Shahab said is an interpretation that he personally had for the ending of the film. But the way we set this up is that each person, each viewer, can have their own interpretation, the way they perceive the world and what’s happening to them and I can give them a different interpretation of that. I reserve that information, but I do enjoy hearing different things.
My last question for you both is what is your favorite horror or thriller movie?
Kourosh Ahari: When we were doing research with Iranian audiences there is a wide interest for the genre and great fans for it. In the Iranian cinema, it’s not often celebrated. Personally myself, as a horror fan, watching horror movies since early age.. how it started was my cousin one night played this movie and left for me and my younger cousin and it happened to be my very first horror films and it happened to be a vampire movie, which, you know, at that age, after the movie I was still so scared and afraid that I couldn’t sleep. It was a hot summer night, the window had to be open and I was like, what if one of them just comes inside and ya know? I had a few days of not sleeping and being scared but what that did is it sort of involve me in this type of movies and I started watching it more and doing it more. I found what I’m most interested in, in terms of this genre, because it’s a vast genre with different sub-genre, but what I enjoy the most is those horror films that are either psychologically focusing on the human condition or regarding the supernatural things that are unknown to us, things that you can connect.
If I see a horror film and if I’m enjoying certain horror, I have to connect to the story, I have to connect to what’s being said. If I see a moment I have to feel like I either experienced it myself or I’ve heard it from someone that has experienced it, so it has to have that real connection. That type of movie is what I enjoy the most and what I watch the most. If you want me to name specific ones: The Others, the most favorite one for me since I started watching horror films, and then after that more current films, like Hereditary is a good one.
Shahab Hosseini: In Iran, there has not been a whole lot of horror films though there was one that was made a few years ago called The 29th Night. The horror genre is not something that would be my personal favorite genre. What I like more are films that are more psychological, but I do like the Japanese version of Dark Water, which I think is a great film. And of course the great films of the history of cinema, such as The Shining. But in the history of the Iranian cinema, I believe when it comes to horror films, THE NIGHT is probably the best, along with the movie The 29th Night.
THE NIGHT is now in theaters and On Demand. Fore more on the film, check out our review here.
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