Combustible Celluloid
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With: Shahab Hosseini, Niousha Jafarian, George Maguire
Written by: Kourosh Ahari
Directed by: Kourosh Ahari
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: In Farsi, with English subtitles
Running Time: 106
Date: 01/29/2021

The Night (2021)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Hotel Dooms

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The first US-produced film to receive distribution in Iran in four decades, Kourosh Ahari's The Night is also one of the very best horror movies I've seen in recent years, rich in atmosphere and clever storytelling. It's a simple haunted-hotel setup as bickering Iranian-American couple Babak (Shahab Hosseini, from the dual Oscar-winners A Separation and The Salesman) and Neda (Niousha Noor) attend a dinner party with friends. They are stressed-out new parents, and Babak is suffering a toothache and has drunk too much when he insists that they head home for the night. The GPS sends them to a weird hotel complete with a creepy desk clerk (George Maguire). Of course, all kinds of crazy stuff begins happening, from scary noises to threatening figures.

A scene in which the sleep-deprived couple calls a cop gave me one of the biggest chills I've had in a long while. Usually in movies like this, the couple must figure out what happened at the hotel to make it this way, but here the source of the horror lies in secrets the couple is keeping from each other, and connected to their fresh, two-halves-of-one tattoos that each has on their wrists. Director Kourosh Ahari uses hand-held camera to surprisingly neat effect, going with disorienting long takes, and uses music, lighting, and color to further establish the constricting chills. The film is largely spoken in Farsi, with some English, and offers a coming together of two cultures during a time (it was shot in 2018) when one of those cultures was under threat.

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