Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Kourosh Ahari's THE NIGHT: You can take Iranians out of Iran, but...

...you can't take Iran out of Iranians. That's one of the several take-aways the viewer might glean from the new, would-be scary movie rather generically titled THE NIGHT, from writer/director/producer Kourosh Ahari (shown below), an Iranian émigré who moved with his family to Palo Alto, California, when he was 18 years old. 

Before TrustMovies gets into why this movie bored the pants off him, let me say how well-photographed it is (by Maz Makhani). Quite classily done, really. And also that it is interesting (for a short while, at least) to see a film about Iranians residing in the USA. That's something different from our usual view of the citizens of Iran. 

Content-wise, however, there is maybe, if we're very lucky, a bare half-hour of story here. The movie itself is stretched out to 105 minutes. Ouch. Or more à propos, snore. The plot, such as it is, involves a family -- dad, mom, infant -- who have left the home of their friends after a late-evening dinner, and decide (it's actually Dad who makes the decision) that it is too late to drive home so they must stay in a hotel instead.

The remainder of the movie has them menaced, it would seem, by the hotel itself . Yes, all the usual signifiers are present: a naughty, malfunctioning GPS; the very odd hotel (where the family is the only guest); a black cat; a sudden nosebleed; a mirror that doesn't quite reflect the image facing it; people who, out of the blue, appear and then disappear; and on and on. And on.

To call The Night a slow-burn horror/thriller is to severely understate things. For younger critics, who have not yet spent most of their life -- from The Shining onward (and backward) -- viewing stuff like this over and over, there may be something that seems half-assedly original. But not for most of the rest of us.

For quite some time, the dialog we hear most often is of the "Sleep, my love. Go to sleep" variety (Mom to babe, Dad to Mom). As the movie progresses, there is a sudden scare or two, but much of what we experience is firmly in the been-there/seen-that mode. As things grow crazier, Dad and Mom grow more witless and make ever stupider decisions -- knocking on every room of the hotel after being told that they are its only guests and yelling "Stay here; I'll be right back!" even though the first general rule of movies in the scary genre is, when things get this creepy, Don't Leave Each Other Alone!

Eventually we get nitwit bromides such as the truth will set you free, along with suggestions that maybe guilt and expiation are really behind all the machinations. Whatever. I should add that, in addition to its being boring and obvious, The Night is also downright reactionary in its view of men, women and their place in society. As I say, you can take Iranians out of Iran, but.... (Maybe this is not actually the filmmaker's view. More likely, he's hoping to get the film released in his home country, too.)

From IFC Midnight, in Persian (and very occasional English) with English subtitles, The Night opens this Friday, January 29, in theaters virtual (and maybe actual), and via streaming/VOD. Click here for more information.

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