Review: 'The Night' a slow burn haunted house thriller that stings
Courtesy of IFC Midnight
Inevitable comparisons to Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining'' are in store for “The Night,” a mostly Farsi-lanugage haunted house thriller that stings. Complemented by stellar performances from Shalab Hosseini and Niousha Jafarian who play an estranged married couple with a baby daughter caught looking for overnight accommodations after a drunken dinner party, “The Night'' won't be shaken easily.
Banak Nederi (Hosseini) and his wife Neda (Jafarian) end up at the 1926 Wilshire landmark: Hotel Normandie that’s atmosphere and historical setting is the perfect locale for the couple to lose their minds and face demons from the past. An eerie sense of dread greets them as notable character performer George Maguire, playing an unknown receptionist, checks them in with a strict set of guidelines (“Don’t push on the door”) and a wry smile that’s a character unto itself. You can’t have these films without the creepy guy who works the graveyard shift and has a few screws loose.
From the outside, Hotel Normandie looks packed with people, but Banak and Neda seem to be the only guests for the evening; so when strange creeks in the floor or sounds through the walls start to manifest, they can only help themselves. Though, as the night trickles on, it becomes more obvious these supernatural encounters are linked to the couple’s marital problems and worse.
Capturing the spooky corridors with flair, Maz Makhani’s lush cinematography nets the ambiance of Normandie, along with director Kourosh Ahari - in his feature debut - eye for suspenseful mood lighting. Despite “The Night” aiming for a more psychological approach, Ahari isn’t afraid to throw traditional horror movie troupes in for kicks, like obligatory jump scares that go above tedious in part because of their stern effectiveness. The use of a drunken, mumbling homeless man (Elester Lathan), one inquisitive police officer (Michael Graham) and the token black cat are used to great effect.
“The Night” loses momentum during the early to middle sections where viewers' minds can play tricks on them, but Ahari juices things to eleven during those last fifteen minutes where past and present collide. The final shot is thought provoking and Ahari seems right in his own psychedelic wheelhouse. Audiences should be eager for what he does next.
THE NIGHT opens in theaters and VOD Friday, January 29th