It Comes at Night had me at its ambiguous title. Whether it’s a book, a film or a roadside attraction, the mysterious “it” pronoun in the title always pulls me in (i.e. It Follows, It Came from the Desert, or Stephen King’s simple, but terrifying, It); because, right off the bat, my mind is racing and needs to know, ‘What in the heck is it?’
That said this new, low-key horror film can be both good (I’m saying good) and bad, depending on your tolerance for loose and untidy ends and what the meaning of the word ‘it‘ is. You may never know or understand exactly what “it” is; or you might walk away with it all perfectly straight in your head. Either way, this movie is sure to spur many post-viewing discussions, and that’s always a sign of a great story.
Imagine The Walking Dead with only the good acting and edge-of-your-seat storytelling and none of the gratuitous gore and milked melodrama of that TV series, and you’ll have something that resembles It Comes at Night.
Set in a soon-to-be, post-apocalyptic future, It Comes at Night revolves around an interracial couple and their child. Paul (Joel Edgerton), Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and their teenage son, Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), are struggling to survive in a remote mountain cabin as the rest of the (unseen) world is ravaged by some nasty, unknown disease.
A scavenger, Will (Christopher Abbott), breaks into Paul and Sarah’s home, looking for supplies, and after an extreme vetting process he and his partner, Kim (Riley Keough), and their young son, Andrew (Griffin Robert Faulkner), are allowed to move into the isolated cabin – providing they follow the house rules.
That’s the set-up for the intense psychological drama that follows. As I mentioned earlier, what is it? Is it outside, trying to get in, or is it already inside? Is it all in their heads, or is it real? Will it ever be explained, or will it haunt you for days after you’ve seen the film? Just keep an open mind and roll with it!
An uncredited character in this film is the dark, brooding forest that surrounds the house. Cinematographer Drew Daniels turns the gnarly trees and foliage into something otherworldly and sinister. The same is true for the nighttime interior shots of the family’s cabin.
I have to admit that, at first, I was a little hung up on this film’s title and the way the movie concludes; but, upon reflection, the moniker is a stroke of genius by writer/director Trey Edward Shults (Krisha – 2015), and if his movie had been called anything else besides It Comes at Night, I don’t think it would have worked as well as it does.
Do I like having my head messed with in a movie? Yes, that’s the whole reason for going to the theater in the first place, and this one will have you thinking about it and talking about it for quite some time.
Intentional or not, there is some underlying social commentary happening in this film as well as it holds a metaphorical mirror up to Trump’s America of travel bans and (as mentioned) extreme vetting, and the paranoia created by lies and the so-called “fake news.” Are we all Paul and Sarah and Travis? Ugh. Let’s hope not. Grade: 8.5/10
Photos © 2017 A24