The Night is the most thrilling movie in subtitles I've seen since Parasite. There's a reason I've never loved dark, remote, secluded hotels at any time of day, and The Night certainly has reminded me why.
If you loved the claustrophobic feel of The Shining, Director/Writer Kourosh Ahari’s The Night is the psychological thriller you didn't realize you'd been waiting for.
The Night Film Review
Filmed mainly on location at the Hotel Normandie in Los Angeles, CA, The Night is an introspective psychological thriller that explores the darkest fears of the main characters as they are trapped inside a brooding hotel, reminiscent of the remote Overlook Hotel in Kubrick's The Shining.
Babak (Shahab Hosseini), Neda (Niousha Noor), and their daughter check into the boutique, eerie Hotel Normandie after a night out with friends and a near accident. From the moment they spot the hotel in an otherwise normal-bustling section of a city, and park their car in what makes the hotel feel like it is then isolated, strange things happen.
Throughout what seems like an endless night, the couple realized they are not only locked in the hotel but are also being haunted by mysterious forces seemingly real enough to drive anyone mad.
It turns out that guilt and secrets can do more than just haunt you psychologically. And a gentle reminder—not everyone is who they seem.
What Works with The Night
The use of cinematography is brilliant in this film. While filming at night certainly aids in the creation of the muted color palette, the crew also photographed the early scenes with several older Leica lenses—prime lenses they found at a friend's house, as Ahari told us when we interviewed him. Later on at the hotel, they switched to other, more traditional lenses for a deeper, more saturated feel.
The use of shadows to focus on internal emotions and fear offered effective, emotional looming visual cues the crew used in much of the hotel cinematography. Maz Makhani as the cinematographer was clearly the right choice for this project, though interestingly enough, the bulk of his experience is in music video work. I look forward to more of his work.
As it should, sound design plays an integral piece in building tension, terror, and fear. Nima Fakhrara has scored a hauntingly beautiful work to guide the viewer through the night at the Hotel Normandie, mixed with dripping water, buzzing lights, and the sounds of the city. Even the simplicity of the quietness when Babak wakes from his nightmare and opens the window, and you hear the city noises again is a critical piece of that sound design.
What Doesn't Work with The Night
Overall, not much doesn't work with The Night. The early part of the film before we get to the hotel drags on a few minutes too long for my preference. I prefer less tension when I know it's simply tension we're building. To me, it's wasted time in my day.
Similarly, when we're well into the mysterious hotel occurrences, it felt as though that dragged on a little too long before we got to the crux of why the couple was being haunted. All in all, the 105-minute movie could have been reduced to 95 minutes or so and been just as effective, or maybe even more so.
Kourosh Ahari Interview
I chatted with Director/Writer Kourosh Ahari the weekend The Night premiered in the U.S. We had a Q&A to learn about his background and filmmaking, as well as ask questions about The Night, his first full-feature film with Mammoth Pictures.
Ahari has a background in psychology and has always had an interest in exploring that element in his films. Ahari said he set out to make a psychological thriller to make the viewer address the fears we all have within. “That’s what matters to me, to us [Milad Jarmooz is his Mammoth Pictures cohort]. I want to be able to tell human stories,” Ahari said. “I like telling stories of the unknown. That’s scary because you don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Because the story takes place at night, the crew opted to shoot the film at night. While that made it a bit more authentic and helped with the muted, dark shadowy feel, Ahrai said filming at night made things a bit slower than during the day.
One of the lessons Ahari said he learned as a first-time filmmaker (for a feature film) is that you have to be very involved. “That was something I had to manage along with directing, and that definitely affected the time and space I would have given for directing,” Ahari said. “Next time, I would want more time to tell the story in making sure it comes together the way I want it to.”
Much like Ahari's previous works, The Night is a story that looks at ideas that matter and that have an impact on the audience. “We go deeper into psychology and internal fear.”
In the film as the couple check in to the hotel and head toward their room, we see a painting of a young man with his gazing into a mirror, only the reflection isn't mirrored, it's a repeat of what you are looking at—the backside of the man looking at himself in the mirror.
I had burning questions for Ahari surrounding this painting, for several reasons, including the fact that it is mirrored in one of the ending scenes of the film. I wanted to know if perhaps the young man in the painting could be the hotel clerk trapped in the hotel after all these years. “It is not him,” Ahari told me. “But the movie should answer what happens to him. All the questions are meant to be answered in the film.” The painting is a reimagination of a piece of art Ahari had seen somewhere and thought was a perfect representation of something he wanted to present in the movie.
“It was a great way to highlight what is happening with the character internally in the movie—not being able to look yourself in the mirror,” Ahari said. The shame and the feeling of guilt over hiding something from someone you love.
The Night is the first American-produced film to receive a license for theatrical release in Iran since the 1979 revolution, so it's important for it to be shown in theatres there, though because of the pandemic, The Night has yet to be shown in Iran. Ahari said all the key departments were Iranian or Iranian-American. Theatres are still shut down, and they really want it to be seen theatrically in Iran, it has yet to be released there at all.
About The Night
After a night out with friends, an exhausted married couple, Babak (Shahab Hosseini) and Neda (Niousha Noor), and their baby take shelter in the grand but eerie Hotel Normandie. Throughout a seemingly endless night, mysterious disturbances ruin their night’s rest as Babak and Neda soon realize they’re locked-in with a malevolent force that hungers for the dark secrets they’ve kept from one another.
With The Night, director Kourosh Ahari made history for being the first U.S.-produced film to receive a license for theatrical release in Iran since the revolution. The psychological thriller follows in the footsteps of The Shining, luring viewers into a hotel that is both ominous and inviting, where the ghosts of the past still linger around each corner. The terrors that lurk in the corridors are more real and terrifying than any movie monster in a mask. The Night will make you never want to spend a night away from home again.
The Night Official Trailer
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