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Monday, January 25, 2021

[Review] ‘The Night’ is Atmospheric, Stylish Psychological Horror

Haunted hotels are nothing new in the realm of horror. Even the mere mention of the phrase instantly brings the likes of The Shining to mind. While it’s likely inevitable to draw comparisons to the Kubrick classic when watching The Night, the Farsi-language horror-thriller forges its own path by infusing mind-bending psychological thrills with cultural identity and folkloric chills.

Babak Naderi (Shahab Hosseini) and his wife Neda (Niousha Jafarian) enjoy a dinner party among fellow Iranian expats in L.A.’s suburbs, despite Babak’s nagging toothache and the most subtle of hints at the tension between the couple. By the time they leave to head home, Babak’s imbibed in one too many drinks but refuses to allow Neda the keys to drive. She’s too busy trying to ensure their infant daughter remains asleep to notice the GPS malfunctioning, sending them in circles. Finally, Babak confesses that they’re lost, and a near accident spurns them to seek a hotel for the night. They just so happen to have stopped next to Hotel Normandie, an old and strangely empty inn. Once checked in by the peculiar night clerk (George Maguire), Babak and Neda soon discover they’re trapped in a night of hellish torment that’ll force dark secrets to the surface.

Director Kourosh Ahari builds a creepy atmosphere that unsettles. There are obvious clues that something is amiss, like haywire GPS or the Crazy Ralph-like homeless man (Elester Latham) muttering ominous warnings. The night clerk behaves most professionally, but his choice in conversation tends to lean peculiar and garish. That doesn’t even touch upon the shadowed figures or black cat that continues to plague Babak leading up to their stay. Like with most horror characters, the signs get overlooked until far too late.

What really sells the eerie mood of this chamber piece is the stellar production design by Jennifer Dehghan, and Maz Makhani‘s cinematography. There’s enough modern class to Hotel Normandie, but the red haze of the neon signs and shadowed corridors lends a lush, dreamlike quality that strikes the perfect tone for an atypically haunted hotel. Maguire’s intentionally stilted performance furthers the off-putting vibe, setting the ideal stage for the visions that plague Babak at increasing intervals.

Ahari and co-writer Milad Jarmooz bide their time doling out answers, and there’s no hand-holding on the clues. Some aren’t hard to decipher, but many hold deeper meaning from a cultural standpoint. Black cats are commonly recognized as bad luck or ill-omens, but in Persian folklore, they tend to represent something far more supernaturally nefarious. The Night eventually reveals its hand but bides its time exploring the psychological horrors and strain in Babak and Neda’s relationship.

In many ways, The Night draws clear inspiration from Kubrick, yet Ahari merely uses that as a launchpad to spin a stylish new psychological horror movie with confidence and specificity. The performances are purposefully understated to let the atmosphere take center stage, and to allow the unspoken chasm between husband and wife to grow and fester. While The Night favors simplicity and doesn’t entirely reinvent the wheel, the heavily stylized, mind-bending slow burn never ceases to be engaging. Ahari adds a refreshing new perspective to a familiar set up and leaves room to parse out added layers upon repeat viewings.

The Night releases in select theaters, digital, and VOD on January 29, 2021.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/reviews/3647329/review-night-atmospheric-stylish-psychological-horror/

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