NOTE: Here is my review from Soda & Telepaths that was posted back on February 2nd, 2020
Driving home from a night with some friends, Babak (Shahab Hosseini) and Neda (Niousha Noor) become too tired to finish the trip home and so, with their young infant in tow, the couple decides to take a room at the Hotel Normandie for the night so they can sleep off the exhaustion and alcohol. However, the Hotel Normandie is not as peaceful as they would hope and soon their night becomes overrun by assorted strange things that seek to drive them apart and force them to reveal the dark secrets that have caused a rift in their relationship to begin with.
If you’ve seen The Shining, you’re going to enjoy The Night because they are practically the same movie. For the record, there is nothing wrong with using a prior movie as a template to build your own movie on. Hell, almost all of the 80s slasher movies basically took Halloween and changed the holiday it was named after. The Night isn’t just using The Shining as a template, it feels like they read the Wikipedia description and saw a few clips and just decided to recreate The Shining from that.
The Night copying The Shining is so blatant that they literally do the overhead tracking shot of the family driving along a winding road towards the hotel, there is an eerie red light right near the elevators (that looks very blood like), alcoholism is a heavy theme, there’s a hotel worker who appears and disappears but is usually seen behind a bar, it’s almost comical how much is copied. That being said, I can think of worse people to copy than Stephen King and Stanley Kubrick so as long as you don’t mess something up during the copying process then this should work… and director Kourah Ahari did not mess this up.
While a lot of the scenes are familiar, what makes The Night work is the combination of modernisation to make it more relatable to the audience and genuinely impressive tension building. The more familiar setting of a hotel one might find on the main street of any major town makes the goings-on feel more real than they felt in that giant ski lodge that The Shining took place in.
We know this kind of hotel, we’ve all stayed there late at night going to a concert and that makes the horror more visceral. It also helps that this film is very great at using that classic trick where the camera will show a person, then pan away before panning back and the person is vanishing. It does this a lot and it somehow never stops working.
Another part of why The Night is just so completely engaging and works so well is that every performer goes for broke, from our main couple to the delightfully creepy (if underused) hotel receptionist (George Maguire) who has possibly my favourite monologue of the film where he just describes all the death that he’s seen in his life… WHILE FEEDING A BABY WITH A BOTTLE! Every performance is delightful and never goes too over the top, never going full Nicholson even though god I would’ve loved to have seen what Shahab Hosseini’s version of going full Nicholson would look like.
The one moment where this film really drops the ball is right at the end. Without spoilers, The Night does a kind of cool reveal that had me sitting forward and almost praying that the film would cut to credits quickly because the ending made me so happy… and then it did another reveal and I was less happy because, again, it went right back to The Shining well. It’s still an effective ending, I still thought it was creepy and I liked it anyway but if the film had ended 5 minutes sooner I would’ve been thrilled.
The Night is mostly just a weirdly xeroxed version of The Shining, but it’s done in a way where the new elements and textures make it an interesting viewing experience. It’s still very effective when it wants to scare the audience, it has all the right ideas on how to make the viewers feel uncomfortable and has more than enough shocking moments to satisfy most audiences. If nothing else, it’s fascinating to see someone take a familiar film and push it through their own lens to see what can be made.