Director: Kourosh Ahari
Screenplay: Milad Jarmooz, Kourosh Ahari
Starring: Shahab Hosseini, Niousha Noor, Leah Oganyan, George Maguire
Duration: 105 minutes
BBFC Certification: 15
Directed by Kourosh Ahari, The Night, 2020, is a psychological thriller co-produced between Iran and the United States. Although initially a slow burner, heavily dialogued in Persian, this film captivates its audience with what is not seen, rather than what is. Although intensely confusing at times, it is this confusion that makes the film more appealing.
There is nothing new about the film’s narrative, which is like many haunted house stories and almost identical in plot to that of Stanley Kubrick’s, The Shining, 1980. In truth, ‘The Night’s’ cinematic shots are also heavily influenced by Kubrick’s 1980 film. However, the madness and confusion are realized more quickly, leading to hidden intentions and secrets that devour the protagonist completely, his ‘stubbornness’ rather than his madness, leading to his ultimate demise.
The film tells the story of a young couple (Shahab Hosseini, Niousha Noor) and their child, who decide to spend the night at a hotel, following an evening out. Guided by a broken SATNAV, to this overly quiet hotel, said to have ‘only the suite available’, it is quickly evident that the couple’s presence is no coincidence.
As the film progresses, we see both Babak Naderi (Shahab Hosseini) and his wife Neda (Niousha Noor) experience brief encounters with residents and staff. At first, the meetings are portrayed quite normal, although it is apparent early on that these characters are not what they seem. Later interactions start to divulge more noticeable indications that these characters know much more about the couple than is usual. Extra snippets of information here and there, provide ‘food for thought’, making it impossible not to come up with different theories as to why this couple are held hostage by the hotel.
Finally, the couple are forced to face the truth of their imprisonment. Whilst Neda looks to find a way to release the couple from the grips of the hotel, Babak’s refusal to accept what he needs to do to end this mental turmoil, seals the couple’s fate for eternity.
Like I said before, this is not a new idea for a haunted house story. However, it is obvious that a lot of thought and attention has gone into the making of this film. Like the film’s narrative, this Los Angeles hotel could have been anywhere and any time. A definite deliberate intention of the director and co-writer Kourosh Ahari. Much like Kubrick’s, The Shining’, Ahari, uses supernatural suspicions to play with our senses. Is it a film about a haunted hotel? Is it just the hallucinogenic effect of too much alcohol and not enough sleep? The answer to these questions is unknown but what is apparent, is the film’s in-depth need to delve further into the human psyche.
The acting of all characters is strong. Despite the fact we know little about these characters, both Shahab Hosseini and Niousha Noor give believable performances of a couple struggling to connect due to unknown secrets from the past. Minimal supporting cast also contribute well, adding to the eeriness of the film overall, without the need for obvious scare tactics.
The cinematography of this film owes much to that of Stanley Kubrick’s, The Shining, 1980. As a huge fan of this former film, it was not hard to recognise shots imitated almost inherently. From the opening shot of the journey to the hotel, intermittent close-up framing of Babak Naderi (Shahab Hosseini) and long shots of the hotel hallways, it is clear director, Kourosh Ahari, appreciated the atmospheric intention of Kubrick’s 1980 film. The only clear difference is the use of light. Whilst Kubrick’s, The Shining, is almost completely shot with bright light, ‘The Night’, is almost completely shot in dark or very dim light. Even the hospital environment, which is a traditionally bright space, has an outer frame of darkness. This use of darkness does not so much add a scariness but emphasizes the hopelessness of the entire film.
I really enjoyed this psychological thriller, but I can appreciate that some viewers could find it slow and predictable. I have a great love of the cinematography and how each shot is carefully planned with great attention, even if many of the scene’s shots, and camera angles, overwhelmingly reflect those of Kubrick’s, The Shining.
If you are looking for blatant horror and continuous jump scares, this film might not hit the mark. It might also not be the film for you, if you like to understand fully what is happening and films with a distinct and absolute ending. However, as a psychological thriller that keeps you thinking, or if you have a real interest in cinematography, this film is a definite must watch.
The Night is released on digital platforms in the UK by Vertigo Releasing.