I had been looking forward to The Night for about a year since I first heard buzz about this Iranian film in a few festival and preview reports. So it’s probably my own fault if I feel let down a bit, especially when I compare it to far superior pieces like Under the Shadow and A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night.
It’s a simple story, one that feels gently lifted from The Shining: In America, a young Iranian couple (Niousha Jafarian and Shahab Hosseini) get lost driving home from a friend’s place, newborn daughter in tow. Tired and irritable, they agree to stop for the night at a hotel, but soon find themselves plagued by ghostly goings-on and, more crucially, they can’t seem to be able to leave.
It’s a well-worn set-up, but unfortunately The Night doesn’t do anything new with it. Worse still, an editor seems to be absent or timid, because long- drawn-out shots are unbroken by anything other than the fading out of the tension they intended to bring up. Even the inherent peril of a baby in danger isn’t enough to sustain any scares, and the central mystery (and history) of the hotel is neither leveraged nor explored. I actually found myself bored when I imagine I should have been scared.
There’s also an unpalatable message that tattoos, abortions and alcohol are inherently bad – something that fits in with the religious background of these characters, but in an old-fashioned way that’s off-putting to me (and I have family who practice that same religion who don’t espouse these values). I also found how the husband treated the wife (ordering her around like a dog) pretty reprehensible. But, then, perhaps this movie isn’t meant for me.