It Comes At Night Review
The intensity of this marvelous film It Comes At Night displays just how dangerous a post-apocalyptic world can be. In Trey Edward Shults’ second feature film as director, this post-apocalyptic drama draws from similar films in that genre but goes in a totally different direction. It touches upon many powerful themes without sticking with just one straightforward allegory as horror falls onto our two families. Shults truly unlocks his potential as a filmmaker with this well-crafted movie on the horror of family being occupied in a confined space.
It Comes At Night introduces us to an apocalyptic future where an unnamed contagion has spread into most of humanity. Family patriarch Paul (Joel Edgerton), his wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo), and their teenage son Travis (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.) live in a barricaded house located in the middle of the woods as they try to remain alert of any infected that comes knocking at their door. They soon get a visit from Will (Christopher Abbott), an outsider who is looking for supplies for his wife Kim (Riley Keough) and their little boy Andrew. After some convincing, Paul decides to let Will and his family stay with them at their lodge.
It’s from that point where we begin to suspect these outsiders as their arrival sets a chain of events that will shake up this secluded cabin. It’s obvious that in this dangerous world, these survivors would be faced with not just the fear of the monsters that are crawling outside their home but also the suspicions and insecurities that rises between strangers. It gives us a look at how some domestic relationships are beyond saving.
Shults gets to play around with these ideas with some moments that often feel predictable. However, the director is well versed in showing a strong family drama like his previous work while also showcasing the psychological narrative that drives the film forward. It Comes At Night gets to tell a story about not just family but also guilt, desire, necessity, and leadership. The monster of the film is unknown to us and it could come out at any moment. What we get is a psychological horror as the monsters are the ones that we end up making ourselves. The suspense slowly builds up as Shults takes his time to develop his characters so that we get to know them a little while we get astounded by their actions, which leaves us to thinking what these people may be hiding from one another.
With a tough attitude, Edgerton portrays the role of Paul as this typical caring father who would do anything to keep his family safe. Just by his eyes, we can tell that Paul has seen enough horrors in his lifetime. Paul’s paranoia from helping Will is his way of being cautious to protect his family. Once he lets Will’s family into his home, he struggles with trusting them as well as being worried that his wife and son don’t need him as much after knowing that they have other people for support. He never tells anyone how he truly feels, but Edgerton’s silent expressions show how his emotions change throughout the film. The whole cast also mirror Edgerton’s performance as well. Abbott’s agitation displays some complex emotions whether it’s anxiety or treachery, making it difficult to determine what his true motives are. What is easy to read is Ejogo as she portrays a mother who is only looking out for her boys and would follow Paul to the ends of the Earth.
Even though the female performances were powerful, the film focuses more on the men, taking particular interest in Harrison. He’s our eyes to this unstable world but we also see him as a disembodied teenager who is confused by what’s going on around him but is also haunted by the death of his grandfather, who Paul had to kill after he caught whiff of the virus in his system. Through Travis’ point of view, we get to see the power struggle between the two families, which also questions their morality and their decisions that result in dire consequences. In this tight-knit setting, Travis is plagued by nightmares, but it’s the characters who can’t shake the feeling that they are inevitably doomed to die.
It Comes At Night doesn’t come off as a horror flick, but the slow burn of Shults’ storytelling gives the film a psychologically scare. It may actually come out as this summer’s surprise hit in the horror genre. With this kind of terror that Shults has shown us, he has proven that it works really well with his calculating skill set as a filmmaker. This film may polarize audiences, but the lasting effect will stay with you after the film is over.
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