Let’s see if we can make it through.
The Night is director Kourosh Ahari’s debut film. We follow an Iranian couple, Babak (Shahab Hosseini) and Neda (Niousha Noor) who after a night with friends decide to stay at a hotel. Shortly after checking in though, things get weird. The hotel seems to want something from them, and they must figure out what it is if they ever want to escape.
The film features a fantastic sense of dread from start to finish. If Kafka and Hitchcock wrote a film that was directed by Kubrick, you’d have The Night. There is a pervasive sense of wrongness in every scene that gives the film a dreamlike quality. For tone, this one knocks it out of the park.
Strong performances push the narrative forward. Our characters are unhappy, exhausted, and keeping secrets from one another. Their troubles are exacerbated as strange sounds and unusual visions begin to plague both of them.
The Night is a horror movie about feeling at unease more than any jumpscares or other nonsense. The film asks you to look closely at what is occurring and try to make sense of an increasingly senseless situation. The scares are implied, subdued, but still functional. This is the type of film that won’t make you jump in your seat, but you’ll be thinking about after the credits roll.
There isn’t a dud character in the film, even those who have barely any screen time. Simple gestures like handing a keycard or asking to hold a child become wrong due to the tone of the film. Can our couple figure out what is going on in time? What horrible secrets could they possibly have?
The problem with reviewing a movie like this is that it is something better experienced than explained. I can’t explain why the sound of a nail file is so off-putting here unless you’ve already seen it.
That being said, this is not going to be a film for everyone. It slowly burns towards an increasingly weird (but not explosive) climax. The feeling of the film becomes more pronounced, but those wanting blood and guts or spooky ghosts jumping out won’t enjoy this one. The film has to be given full attention and allowed to work. I can see fickle or easily distracted audiences getting lost and not caring enough to fight through it. Those who sound interested by what this film is not will be pleased to find a more tonally structured and thoughtful film.
Are there issues? Yes, particularly with why our couple is so unhappy. Events that seem to be in part driving the narrative don’t make sense when we realize how unhappy they are together. We don’t get to see why they are together in the first place to fully appreciate why they are being torn apart. Small bits of dialogue to ground this aspect of the narrative would have helped. However, this is a minimalist story through and through, so we shouldn’t be surprised to be left wanting more information.
This is a film better build for discussion than for reviewing. I enjoyed it a lot and those of you who like similar movies to me will find a lot to love here. One of the best of the year so far.