Review by Sean Boelman
Kourosh Ahari’s horror-thriller The Night is a historic film because of the context of its release, but one is left to wish that something more exceptional would have been the first U.S. production to receive a release in Iran in nearly half a century. A competent but dull chiller, one can’t help but feel like this should have been more.
The movie follows a couple who must confront their secrets when they are trapped in a hotel by a supernatural force and their night seems to never end. There are so many horror films set in a creepy hotel, and the script by Ahari and co-writer Milad Jarmooz doesn’t do much to set it apart from the slew of other movies in the genre.
Perhaps the biggest issue with the film is that it takes the idea of slow burn to the extreme. Clocking in at an hour and forty five minutes, the movie fails to justify its length with a premise that can only provide so many spooky situations, and by the time it reaches the third act, it is already milked past its worth.
The themes of the film are also very direct in a way that isn’t particularly satisfying. It takes about thirty minutes for the movie to get moving and the actual horror movie stuff to start happening, but once it does, it immediately becomes clear that this is little more than a morality tale.
Ahari is definitely a competent filmmaker, building suspense effectively even if the script is mostly stagnant. The most impressive thing about the execution is the way in which Ahari uses the setting of the hotel to create a feeling of claustrophobia, which is essential for the horror elements of the script to work.
That said, the character development in the movie is less effective, and this is what causes it to falter as a drama and thriller. It’s clear that the audience is supposed to be invested in this marriage, but there isn’t enough put into exploring the dynamic that exists between the two of them.
Shahab Hosseini and Niousha Jafarian both give solid performances but they are definitely limited by the script. It’s clear that both are very talented actors and that, had the dramatic portions of the script been emphasized, they would have made for a great duo. In his supporting role, George Maguire gives an enjoyably sinister turn.
The Night has a few strong elements, but for the most part, it suffers from an overwhelming feeling of “been there, done that”. It’s worth watching for its important cultural context, even if it is otherwise forgettable.
The Night is now available on VOD.