THE NIGHT (2020)
Grimmfest Easter Edition 2021
Directed by Kourosh Ahari
Persian Language with English Subtitles and English Language
Married couple Babak and Neda, with their baby daughter Shabnam, leave their friend’s house after an evening socialising and decide to book into a hotel for the night. During their stay, Babak experiences some strange goings on, from people knocking on their hotel room door to seeing visions of others inside the room. As the unexplained events continue to occur, he convinces Neda that they need to leave immediately but it seems the Hotel Normandie has other ideas for the couple.
Iranian-American psychological horror thriller THE NIGHT is a captivating, surreal experience that will have you questioning what is real and what is not as a couple must face their secrets and each other in order to see the morning rise.
The film focuses on married couple Babak (Shahab Hosseini) and Neda (Niousha Noor) who have recently started a family with baby Shabnam giving the couple much joy but it’s not enough to paper over the cracks that are appearing in the marriage. Neda’s decision to rest up in a hotel, after Babak’s toothache, alcohol consumption and frustration with the car’s sat nav almost causes them to hit a cat, seems like a good idea at the time but things start to unravel further as the couple are plagued by a strange set of events at the eerie Hotel Normandie.
THE NIGHT is an intimate type of film, with most of the screentime focused on the couple and their baby in this disturbingly quiet hotel they’ve found themselves in with its polite but unnerving receptionist (played by George Maguire) and the disabled man loitering in the doorway who the receptionist seems to be oblivious of. The Hotel Normandie also feels like a character in its own right as we become familiar with its corridors, foyer and those troublesome locked front doors as Babak begins to grow restless and frustrated at the strange sounds and visions he experiences throughout the night. The unease that the filmmakers have created is tremendous and often feels like you’re suffocating, unable to come up for air, as Babak and Neda seem to walk into a nightmare within a nightmare within a nightmare. Will this night ever end? What is real anymore? But ultimately, what will it take for them to free themselves.
I really enjoyed how THE NIGHT doesn’t give the viewer answers to all the questions but enough to draw your own conclusions. It’s clear that events that have transpired in the time period between Babak moving to America and Neda joining him from Iran. The couple have both held secrets back from each other and it’s evident that their relationship has broken down during that time and hasn’t really recovered with the two either refusing or unable to talk about it and how the time apart affected them. Though Neda’s story is completed, we’re only provided with clues as to Babak’s past but there’s enough here to interpret as to what’s gone in Babak’s life he’s so keen to withhold.
The film brilliantly builds up the mystery and suspense and makes you feel like you’re losing it as much as Babak is. It’s easy to lose grip on reality and everything becomes an opportunity to scare, from a simple knock on the door to a tap dripping in the bathroom. It’s so effective at putting you on edge. Even the pull of a shower curtain had me sat up straight. The paranoia and confusion which builds throughout the film is fantastic to the point of not knowing what is real anymore. Director Kourosh Ahari manages to capture a never-ending nightmare with Shahab Hosseini and Niousha Noor playing the troubled, married couple so convincingly. Put it this way, it’s made me rethink about staying overnight at an independent hotel anytime soon! More interestingly, Hotel Normandie in Los Angeles is an actual hotel you can visit and is said to be haunted so for movie fans and ghost-hunting buffs, you might want to add this filming location to your must-visit list.
A creepy, atmospheric horror thriller, THE NIGHT is a slick and stylish slice of filmmaking that exposes the darkest secrets of our own psyche.