The Movie Waffler New to Shudder - THE NIGHT | The Movie Waffler

New to Shudder - THE NIGHT

the night review
An Iranian couple is terrorised by supernatural forces in a desolate Los Angeles hotel.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Kourosh Ahari

Starring: Shabab Hosseini, Niousha Jafarian, George Maguire

the night poster

Following the likes of Ana Lily Amirpour's A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night and Babak Anvari's Under the ShadowKourosh Ahari's directorial debut The Night is the latest horror movie to emerge from the Persian diaspora. This one holds the distinction of being the first American produced film to receive a release in Iran since the Islamic revolution of 1979, thanks in no small part to the presence of Iranian acting royalty Shahab Hosseini in the lead role.

The plot of The Night plays like a mash-up of two other recent movies based around immigrants. Like Ekwa Msangi's Farewell Amor it features a husband who leaves his wife for several years to establish himself in America, and as with Remi Weekes' His House it gives us an immigrant couple menaced by a supernatural presence that forces them to confront the actions of their recent past.

the night review

The key difference here is that the immigrant couple at the heart of The Night aren't on the lowest rung of society's ladder, rather they're an affluent, upper middle-class family. We meet Babek (Hosseini) and Neda (Niousha Jafarian) at a dinner party in the Hollywood Hills, where they socialise with similarly comfortable Iranian ex-pats. Despite having knocked back his fair share of vodka shots, Babek insists on driving home, but when he almost crashes the car when a black cat appears in the middle of the road, he acquiesces to his wife's desire to book themselves and their infant daughter into the nearest hotel.

The nearest hotel happens to be the Hotel Normandie, a classic example of LA Gothic (a quick google reveals that this is in fact a real life, fully operational hotel with a 4.5 star rating on Trip Advisor). The creepy concierge (George Maguire) should be an instant red flag, but it's 1am and our heroes are knackered and so hit the hay without a second thought until Babek is woken at 3am. This is said to be the time of day when you're most likely to experience apparitions due to your melatonin levels reaching their peak, and sure enough, both Babek and Neda begin to have strange hallucinations. The former sees a beautiful young woman in the hotel lobby and hovering over his bed, while the latter is taunted by the figure of a young boy calling out "Mommy, Mommy."

the night review

As the night goes on and Babek and Neda find themselves trapped in the hotel, their experiences become all the more creepy, peaking with a nerve-wracking visit by a police officer who may or may not be real (this portion brought back memories of a spooky tale my Dad often related about how he was once pulled over in the middle of the night by a ghostly traffic cop).

Ahari doesn't break any new ground with his film, and some of its key elements (particularly a bit involving a mirror) are a little too derivative. That said, he knows how to play the notes, and even if The Night's terrors are somewhat generic, we're kept on the edge of our seat for most of its running time. This is down to a combination of the convincingly freaked out and paranoid performances of Hosseini and Jafarian, and Ahari's ability to generate scares in simple old-school fashion, shunning CG effects and an overbearing score. In fact, there's almost no onscreen horror here, with noises in the dark and the petrified faces of Hosseini and Jafarian working overtime to convince us that the relatively ambiguous Hotel Normandie might be a portal to Hell.

the night review

Like Bacurau and Hunted, The Night takes the trope of Americans being menaced by foreigners in unfamiliar surrounds and turns it culturally on its head. Much of American horror is based on a latent fear Americans seem to have regarding anything old, so it's deliciously ironic that The Night features protagonists from one of the oldest civilisations on Earth being terrorised in a hotel that was built in the 1920s (I have a tin of peas in the back of my cupboard older than that!). As the plot unspools and Babek and Neda begin to realise why they're being taunted, it becomes clear that it's not some ancient evil they have to contend with, but a far more recent past they've sought to bury.

The Night
 is on Shudder UK now.

2021 movie reviews