“The Night” begins with a round of the party game, Mafia. The film’s central couple Babak (Shahab Hosseini) and Neda (Niousha Jafarian) play along, each wryly accusing the other of hiding secrets, each saying that the other might be the killer. The Persian-language, Los Angeles-set thriller that follows builds tension around the resentments that have accumulated in their marriage. But the stakes never rise past the movie’s first game.
With their infant daughter in tow, Babak and Neda head home from a night of friends, drinks and Mafia. But Babak’s driving is impaired from the libations, so the family stops to stay overnight at a nearby hotel. There, the evening begins its descent from confusion to horror. The couple begins to encounter strange figures — a babbling drifter on the hotel steps, an ominous desk clerk, a woman who wanders in silence, a child who calls for his mother.
The director, Kourosh Ahari, unravels the mystery at a slow pace. It’s halfway through the film before Babak and Neda realize their visions are not just spooky, but may be supernatural. As the couple’s dread mounts, the hotel begins to show them refractions of their regrets, distorted visions of the secrets they’ve kept within their relationship. They try to leave, but every exit offers an entrance for the encroaching woman, the entreating child.
The repetition of the visions and the film’s deliberate pace gives the audience too much time to guess which betrayals haunt Babak and Neda, and this lack of emotional suspense hampers the horror. After all, bumps in the night don’t seem so scary when it is obvious what’s causing the ruckus.
Not rated. In Persian and English, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes. In theaters and available to rent or buy on Google Play, FandangoNow and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators. Please consult the guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before watching movies inside theaters.
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