In a time when most of us can relate to themes of loneliness and isolation perhaps more than ever, the new Iranian horror/thriller The Night (2021) taps into those anxieties and dials them up to 10. Heavily influenced by Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980), The Night follows an Iranian couple living in Los Angeles that become trapped in a hotel overnight, facing events and shadowy figures that force them to confront dark truths that had until then remain hidden. A stunning experiment in tone and an exercise in dread, The Night invokes the cold, sweaty fear of waking up and glancing over at the clock and seeing 3:07am – and that awful drop in your stomach when you feel something inhuman present in the room with you.
The Night starts out as a normal night in Los Angeles. Babak Naderi, played by Shahab Hosseini, and his wife Neda, played by Niousha Noor, begin their evening with a dinner party at the home of some friends. Babak and his friend Farhad, an ER doctor played by Armin Amiri, step into the den with a bottle of vodka. Several shots later, they’re discussing Babak’s marital woes stemming from Neda’s homesickness for their country. Meanwhile, in the kitchen, Neda is showing off the new tattoos she and Babak got earlier that day, saying they just picked the designs at random from the artist’s portfolio.
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Once the evening comes to a close, Babak and Neda grab their infant daughter, Shabnam, and hit the road to head home; however, their drive takes an interesting turn when the GPS begins to go on the fritz and they lose their sense of direction. The Naderi’s end up lost downtown and, with the night only getting later, they make the decision to grab a hotel room at the scenic Hotel Normandie. From there, The Night spirals into a paranoia infused chiller, as the Naderi’s are stalked by the ghosts of their past. In the interest of remaining spoiler-free you’ll have to watch to see if the Naderi’s survive their stay, but please share your theories on the ambiguous ending with us on social media!
One of the areas where The Night truly shines is its expert integration of Kubrick-style cinematography to enhance the prominent themes of isolation and fear, all while setting the horrors in a hotel in an obvious and appreciated nod to The Overlook. Many shots perfectly mirror The Shining, including a set that looks almost identical to the infamous bloody elevators. My absolute favorite moment comes as Babak is staggering down a hallway with his vision blurred. His gait perfectly mimics that of Jack towards the end of The Shining, once his leg is injured and he’s chasing Wendy. To top it all off, the camera switches to that same frontal underneath shot that Kubrick used with Jack Nicholson. In The Shining, the shot shows an aimless rage, as Jack stumbles through the empty halls; the setting behind him always constant thanks to the hotel decor. This framing shows Jack as part of that decor because, after all, he’s always been there.
“While the actual scares are minimal, the ambiance is undeniable…”
In The Night, a similar sentiment is echoed as characters repeatedly tell the Naderi’s that there’s no way out. This shot is used here, obviously in reference to Kubrick’s Stephen King adaptation, but also to reinforce a major theme throughout the film: isolation. Throughout the film, director Kourosh Ahari almost always has the main couple separated. They are constantly leaving one another and shot separately, even when they are in the same room. There’s an emotional isolation that mirrors their own relationship. This lack of unity is emphasized by the secrets that are unraveled over the course of this night.
It’s important to note that The Nightalso focuses on the experience of outsiders in a foreign country which reiterates the themes of isolation and disorientation that persist throughout their hotel stay. The lead couple is constantly forced to switch between their native language of Persian and English, which lends a stuttering quality that disrupts the film for the viewer, echoing the code-switching that Babak and Neda have had to learn to adjust to their new life in the United States. By immersing the viewer in their world this way, The Night forces the audience to identify with the Naderi’s even further. The switching between Farsi with subtitles and English did actually help further invest me in the story. I felt like I was in on the secrets that the outside characters were not and could relate with the outsider experience. So if there’s anyone with subtitle-phobia, no need to fear (also, you’re missing out on a lot of great films).
The Night succeeds as a study in atmospheric dread. The comparisons to the benchmark in that category, The Shining, are inevitable and welcome, with plenty of easter eggs, references, and homages. The film succeeds in delivering a suspenseful and thoroughly engrossing story of immigrants lost and disoriented in a new country, but still haunted by the old one. While the actual scares are minimal, the ambiance is undeniable, as the Naderi’s tale will have you as thoroughly ensconced in the Hotel Normandie as the couple themselves.
Kourosh Ahari’s The Night opens in select theatres, on digital platforms and VOD now! Let us know what you thought of this hellscape hotel over on Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, and in the official Nightmare on Film Street Discord. Not a social media fan? Get more horror delivered straight to your inbox by joining the Neighbourhood Watch Newsletter.
Review: THE NIGHT (2021)
The Night succeeds as a study in atmospheric dread. The comparisons to the benchmark in that category, The Shining, are inevitable and welcome, with plenty of easter eggs, references, and homages. The film succeeds in delivering a suspenseful and thoroughly engrossing story of immigrants lost and disoriented in a new country, but still haunted by the old one. While the actual scares are minimal, the ambiance is undeniable, as the Naderi's tale will have you as thoroughly ensconced in the Hotel Normandie as the couple themselves.