Kourosh Ahari’s The Night is a deeply unsettling film that is both a haunting ghost story and affecting morality play.
When Babak (Shahab Hosseini) and Neda (Niousha Jafarian) get lost after leaving a friend’s dinner party, they decide to stop at a hotel for the night. They check into the Hotel Normandie and try to settle their infant daughter for a night’s rest. The hotel is a peculiar one—it has the makings of a once classy destination, but has fallen into a state of disrepair, which gives it an overall eerie feeling.
Babak and Neda begin to get settled and eventually go to sleep, but it is to be a short repose. Soon, they hear banging on their door, noises from above, and the occasional, insistent cry of a child calling for his mother. Their investigation yields few results, and their attempt to contact the front desk or anyone else in the hotel is fruitless.
At first, it feels as though what they are experiencing is the result of the hotel itself. That it is a quintessential Bad Place and they wandered into the wrong hotel at the wrong time. But as the night wears on and the situation becomes more and more hopeless, they begin to realize that what they are experiencing isn’t random at all. There is a darkness at play in the Hotel Normandie, and it is focusing its energy on the secrets that lie between Babak and Neda.
Ahari’s film is simple in its execution, but it is that simplicity that makes it effective. You don’t need a crazy effects budget to tell a story that relies on suspense and atmosphere, as so much of this story does. Between the events occurring throughout the night to seeing Babak and Neda’s increasingly tense reactions, it’s easy to find yourself in the same headspace as these characters: frightened, confused, and with no idea how the situation will resolve.
Hosseini and Jafarian do a fantastic job bringing these characters to life. Immediately, you can feel that their relationship is one that is lived in. It has its strengths and it has its cracks. As the parents of a young child, you can feel that their love is being tested by all that comes with parenting. We see it in their arguments, in their frustrations, and in their demeanors, which can change from moment to moment. These people feel very real, and so do their reactions when they find themselves in a situation that cannot be easily explained.
As the film goes on, we eventually begin to learn the nature of the unspoken things between them, and why the evil in this hotel has its eye on them. Sometimes horrors come upon us by pure chance, and sometimes they are the result of our own actions. And the horrors that are found in the Hotel Normandie will make audiences happy to be sleeping in their own beds tonight.
Movie Score: 4/5
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