Teeming with ghosts, the accursed hotel at the center of The Night most effectively haunts its unfortunate guests by exploiting their own pasts. Much like Jack Torrance’s history of alcoholism and physical abuse was amplified by the malevolent forces of the Overlook in The Shining—a forebear impossible to avoid conjuring when inescapable, haunted hotels are thrown into the mix—so too are married couple Babak (Shahab Hosseini) and Neda (Niousha Noor) stalked by the skeletons in their closets. And just as visions of regretful pasts emerged during the supernatural activity aboard the titular starship in Event Horizon, apparitions manifest from the dark secrets that the married couple have kept from each other. Rife with unnerving sounds, dim lighting, doppelgängers and cryptic declarations, the film even contains distinctively Lynchian elements.

While The Night may not bring anything particularly new to the table, it nevertheless effectively assembles well-worn elements into a compelling atmosphere of dread. A sense of claustrophobia is inherent to any no-way-out horror scenario, but director Kourosh Ahari (who co-wrote the primarily Farsi-language script with Milad Jarmooz) also keeps the viewer off-balance with tension that abruptly shifts from simmer to boil and back again throughout the film.

Though ghosts certainly play an important role in this film’s horror, it’s through a sort of reverse jump-scare method. A figure—frequently a doppelgänger—will be there one moment and gone the next, making the phantom’s sudden absence the most chilling aspect of its presence. In one instance, Babak—whose meandering drunk driving after a social gathering prompted the couple and their baby into a pit stop at the mysteriously empty hotel in the first place—hands their fussing child to Neda in the empty hotel lobby, only to then find Neda waiting for him without the kid when he returns to the room. Whether he’s experiencing half-drunk hallucinations may be a point of contention between husband and wife during this unsettling and never-ending night, but there’s little doubt for the viewer that these visions are genuine. Especially when Neda begins to be followed by a little boy who will appear out of and vanish into thin air.

The Night works best in its subtler moments, and occasionally stumbles by pouring it on too thick. An overtly menacing monologue about violent death by the hotel receptionist (George Maguire)—in which he claims to have been present at terrorist attacks, mass shootings and natural disasters—comes across as stilted, and the nature of the secrets that Babak and Neda keep from each other are predictable and relatively mundane. But as a creeping sense of foreboding transforms into panic, increasingly futile escape attempts pit Babak and Neda against each other just as they must pull together if they want to see daybreak. This is where The Night really shines. While the sinister forces at work may claim there’s no way out to Babak, they shed light on possible paths forward to Neda. Ultimately, then, the primary struggle in the film may just come down to the hotel’s unstoppable forces meeting the immovable object of a stubborn man’s refusal to confront the sins of his past.

While it may not bring anything particularly new to the table, The Night nevertheless effectively assembles well-worn horror elements into a compelling atmosphere of dread
65 %
Haunted by Dark Secrets
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