The Night @ Santa Barbara International Film Festival

After a nice night of drinks and dinner at their friends’ house, Iranian-Americans Babak (Shahab Hosseini – The Salesman, A Separation) and Neda (Niousha Jafarian) start the long drive home with their baby. He has a toothache and has drank too much, so driving safely this late at night proves to be quite a challenge. The couple decides to spend the night at a hotel.

A sign of things to come is the strange hotel receptionist (George Maguire – The Pursuit of Happyness, Fight Club) who checks them in. Once through that the night does not get any better as strange things begin to happen. Babak begins seeing strange things and once they start freaking out and decide to leave they find they cannot. I mean, that they cannot physically leave the building. Let the strangeness begin.

Horror. Tricky bit of fim making, it is. What many don’t seem to get is that the success (or failure) of a horror film largely has to do with the atmosphere created. You have to be put in a state of tension in order to feel scared. No amount of blood or gore is going to do that. Take note screenwriters and directors! Tension. You have to build it!

Director Kourosh Ahari (Generations, The Yellow Wallpaper) totally understands that. This film is all atmosphere. All dark rooms and shadows. All about not being able to leave. Things flitting about. Strange noises. All adding up to get your heart racing and stomach in a knot.

A bit like pulling a loose thread on a sweater, the story unravels here a bit at a time. Secrets are revealed. Secrets which are the key to everything. Including their very freedom from the creepy hotel.

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