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  Night, The You Can Check Out Anytime You Want...
Year: 2020
Director: Kouroush Ahari
Stars: Shahab Hosseini, Niousha Noor, George Maguire, Michael Graham, Elester Latham, Armin Amiri, Steph Martinez, Kathreen Kavari, Gia Mora, Leah Oganyan, Lily V.K., Ali Kousheshi, Amir Ali Hosseini, Hana Rahimzadeh, Sam Tarazandehpour
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Husband and wife Babak (Shahab Hosseini) and Neda (Niousha Noor) are Iranian-Americans, having made the journey across the Atlantic some years ago, but only now have had a baby, Shabnam, who they have taken to see their friends at a dinner party. The evening goes well, the conversation flows, but so do the beverages, not that Neda indulges as she is breastfeeding, though Babak perhaps has more of a tipple than he should have considering he is driving. Worse than that, he shared a toke with his pal as well, so when it is time to go, he might not be in the best state to drive, though he does hide his lightly sozzled air well. However, on the way back home, the satnav goes haywire and they get lost, and then they nearly crash into a cat on the road...

Following in the footsteps of A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, this was also an Iranian horror movie, made by Iranians in America, and lending a definite sensibility to their chills that the two pictures shared. Whether this would catch on in the same manner was debatable, but it did feature one of the country's biggest film stars, Shahab Hosseini, best known from those prestigious Asghar Farhadi dramas, and the attraction of spooky scares that director Kouroush Ahari set about with some gusto, albeit in a tightly controlled style. When it was released, The Shining was the most common antecedent to be referenced thanks to them both taking place in haunted hotels, but there was plenty here that seemed redolent of an Iranian flavour, particularly in its atmosphere.

It unfolded entirely at night (hence the title, one supposed), and indeed more or less in one location once the dinner party was left behind and the family needed a hotel to stay in when their trip went somewhat awry. Under a sodium glow, this had a strong ambience reminiscent of waking up in the early hours and being unable to get back to sleep; Babak also has a bout of toothache to contend with that is giving him trouble in his slumber, and then there's the baby who can wake up crying at any moment. These were smart devices to ensure the two main characters would be awake to experience the chills in the dead of night, though precisely what was going on was not so clear, all we knew was that someone or something was tormenting them and we did not know why - though it grows apparent there's another aspect that can keep you up as well.

This was guilt, as both Babak and Neda have secrets from their past they have never opened up about, and the hotel brings them out as, well, ghosts. In fact, once they hit the road early on, every living thing we see may be a spectre, from the vagrant (Elester Latham) on crutches who may be aware of more than he lets on (it's hinted that he could hold the key to Neda escaping with Shabnam - but without her husband) to the receptionist (George Maguire) who has an unlovely line in small talk that disturbs Babak. Then there's the little boy running around the hallways looking for his mother - naturally, when the couple call the police the cop is sceptical that there is anything wrong at all, leading to an excellent switcheroo that was indicative of Kouroush's knack with unease on a low budget. Although there was blood, it was not hugely gory, what it was turned out to be nicely creepy, though the film was a little too in love with its overall effect, indulging itself too long for such a slender, though effective, premise. The ending, however, was worth waiting for. Music by Nima Fakhrara.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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