The Night walks a thin line between style and substance. After leaving a get together with friends, Babak, Neda, and their infant daughter Shabnam stop at a hotel. Babak has had too much to drink and he does not want his wife to drive since she has a suspended license. Once there, the couple are forced to face a malevolent force and confront their darkest secrets.
The production for the movie is top notch. The expected bumps are found in The Night as is the ominous music. There are times when the score becomes so low it can barely be heard. This is particularly effective in delivering chills. The Night looks stunning. The use of light and shadows maximizes the film’s creepy atmosphere. The hotel the couple decides to stay at looks cavernous. The film is obviously indebted to The Shining. There are other comparison to be made, however. Since it is essentially a haunted house movie, there are plenty of genre tropes. Strange reflections in mirrors, a creepy receptionist, and sudden footsteps are part of the movie.
Which is not to say The Night is just another clone. Instead of relying on ghosts and jump scares, the fear is character driven. Everything the couple faces is based on inner demons. This is not a novel idea, but the escalating story is well written enough to stand out. Dealing with inner demons has long been a part of horror. This another example of how well written it must be for it to work.
This does lead to pacing issues, though. It takes a while for The Night to really hit its stride. Once things do get scarier, there is a lot of repetition. This is especially noticeable since the film is almost two hours long. The movie is a predominantly Farsi-language production. Babak and Neda are an Iranian couple who live in Los Angeles. The Night seems to be the perfect setup for a topical message. There are some moments that definitely have a deeper meaning – almost every encounter with an authority figure ends in frustration, for example.
That being said, The film is more concerned with telling the story of the couple. This makes for an all consuming terror that can come from any direction. There is a deeper meaning to some of what is going on, but the main purpose of the movie is to terrify its audience. The Night delivers classic scares underscored with social commentary.
The Night comes to theaters, digital, and VOD platforms January 29
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