The Night (2020) is a warping and impressive directorial debut from Kourosh Ahari, director of such shorts as In Passing (2017) and Malaise (2014). While his time in the industry has been short, this promising offering displays a competence and understanding of what makes a truly chilling story, thankfully with enough talent to back up every inch of it.
An Iranian couple living in the US are lost on their way home from a night of drinks at a friend’s house. After arguing by the roadside over how to proceed, they eventually come across the majestic yet eerie Hotel Normandie, and decide to stay the night. What follows are enough spectral shenanigans and psychological trickery to satisfy Stephen King; And although it does tread similar ground to the fantastic 1408 (2007), The Night manages to hit hard in its own stylish and weighty manner.
Invoking a similar claustrophobic dread to films such as The Borderlands (2013) and perhaps to a lesser extent Grave Encounters (2011); The Night presents us with the feeling that the characters we follow are being tortured to the full extent of their psychological threshold. To the disappointment of some, the film feels perhaps a little too scare-restrained to cross the border from unnerving to fully frightening. What area of the horror spectrum it does fall under, however, it owns to the fullest degree.
The domestic troubles of lead couple Babak (Shahab Hosseini) and Neda (Niousha Noor) are apparent from the opening scenes, and it’s these demons and their collective secrets they must face if they are to survive their night at Hotel Normandie. Though slow in pace, the film is pulled along with ease by Hosseini and Noor’s compelling and involving performances. Additional characters show their faces now and then to instill some terror, shoving along a plot which keeps the brain whirring up until its revelatory, mind-bending third act.
And the ending…oh, that ending.
For a story of personal demons and their manifestations, the inference of real threat is a potent one. Dread builds through long -often hypnotic- camera takes, the slightest facial twitch indicating more than a monologue could ever achieve. The mesmerising effect of this style admittedly left me forgetting my place on more than one occasion, which is brilliantly appropriate. This, along with the heaps of mystery still seemingly looming beneath the surface even as the credits roll, absolutely warrants repeated viewings. The few jumpscares that were included are delivered with impeccable timing and accented with such dreadful musical spikes that I rejoiced at their inclusion, and I haven’t enjoyed a jumpscare since The Ring (2002).
The Night takes its time and strikes when it needs to with uncanny precision. Starting slow (almost deceptively dull), this build-up should be taken as such, and immersion in the world of these brilliantly acted characters is a top priority. This exquisitely-balanced drama/horror blend is a pleasant surprise from Ahari and hopefully a promising look at a bright future in cinema. I felt lost within the Hotel Normandie, which I would say is the highest possible praise for a film with The Night’s intent.
The Night 2020 Movie Trailer
Joe first knew he wanted to write in year six after plaguing his teacher’s dreams with a harrowing story of World War prisoners and an insidious ‘book of the dead’. Clearly infatuated with horror, and wearing his influences on his sleeve, he dabbled in some smaller pieces before starting work on his condensed sci-fi epic, System Reset in 2013.Once this was published he began work on many smaller horror stories and poems in bid to harness and connect with his own fears and passions and build on his craft.
Joe is obsessed with atmosphere and aesthetic, big concepts and even bigger senses of scale, feeding on cosmic horror of the deep sea and vastness of space and the emotions these can invoke. His main fixes within the dark arts include horror films, extreme metal music and the bleakest of poetry and science fiction literature.
He holds a deep respect for plot, creative flow and the context of art, and hopes to forge deeper connections between them around filmmakers dabbling in the dark and macabre.