It Comes at Night – 3 out of 5
I was very tempted to do a “Who’s on First?” style bit with this opening paragraph by asking what comes at night despite knowing the answer is “it.” I then thought about talking about how “it” really gets around as it is something you can “bring on” as well as something that comes at night. Finally, I thought about referencing the movie It but that really is just an excuse for me to bring up how awesome that adaptation was and provide a link to my review (and here it is!). In the end, however, I decided to waste my time and yours by doing an opening paragraph talking about all the things I could have done here. Anyway, let’s start my review for It Comes at Night—a film that was loved by the critics but something I felt wasn’t that special.
|I'm filled with an overwhelming desire to paint that door black.|
After the world has become decimated by an unknown pathogen, Paul (Joel Edgerton) holds up in his isolated home with his wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and his son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) and, together, they struggle to survive. Not long after Sarah’s father (David Pendleton) succumbs to the sickness, their home is invaded by a man named Will (Christopher Abbott). Will explains that his wife Kim (Riley Keough) and his son Andrew (Griffin Robert Faulkner) are nearby and they are running out of supplies. Reluctantly, Paul agrees to take the family in and they decide to try and survive as a team. However, mistrust and paranoia start to infect the families as the looming threat of sickness surrounds the home.
|Grandpa is too old for this virus shit--I mean, sick. He's too sick for this.|
So, this film was critically acclaimed and it gave me really high hopes that I was going to see something horrifying. I really like psychological thrillers and I enjoy slow burn horror that is done well (that’s a bit redundant because it would be stupid if I liked slow burn horror done terribly). However, I wasn’t too impressed with It Comes at Night. It has a lot working for it but there was just enough working against it that made me wonder what the critics saw in it. Why didn’t a wannabe critic like me see the same thing they saw?
|Does the post-apocalypse world make family dinners more or less awkward?|
It Comes at Night really shines with its cast as the performances are terrific. Everyone has that perfect balance that makes the nightmare world of continuously existing with a fear of a virus feel realistic and legit. The emotions, reactions and even just the mundane moments of these two families trying to survive feel authentic. The movie also provides some excellent moments of tension and there were a few moments that had me on the edge of my seat, wondering what horrors where lying in wait for this gathering. However, the film is undone greatly but how long it takes for the central conflict to finally show up and cause the seemingly uneasy alliance to come untethered.
|Joel Edgerton is such an impressive talent. So much so that he was able to escape|
with a career after being in the prequels. (I'm kidding, making jokes about the
prequels is basically like doing jokes about airline food now.)
The biggest reason that elicited my reaction to this film is that it never really feels like the two families are at odds with each other until the very end. The setup works exceptionally well at the beginning as we see how far Paul is willing to go to protect his family and his home but once Will and his crew are integrated, there’s really no tension between the clans. At this point, the tension that is occurring feels like it is focused elsewhere as we are left to question if a certain family member is sick or not but I never felt like I was seeing people starting to distrust one another. In fact, to me, it felt like they were doing fine together and existing in a mundane life that would come from people trying to survive in a virus-induced apocalypse. When everyone collides and emotions boil over, everything suddenly felt like it was going from zero to one hundred and their reactions felt a little over-the-top to me. Had a little more seeds of distrust been sown, this big ending might have had an even larger impact but, as it is, it feels too big for the weak buildup.
|It's a bleak horror film. We already know that dog isn't going to make it.|
As dichotomous as it is, my complaints about the feeling like there was no rising tension and just an extreme reaction for the ending are at odds with my feelings about the actually ending itself. Yes, I feel the reaction was a bit extreme and was in desperate need of some more tense moments prior to it but the ending itself was actually very griping, dark, bleak, and horrific…and I loved it for that. It’s fine occasionally to see a horror film or a thriller have a happy ending where the survivor gets away and eliminates the antagonist but for a film like It Comes at Night, the antagonist isn’t a machete wielding maniac but rather an intangible outside force and the inherent distrust inside a person’s being. With these two factors making up the dramatic atmosphere of the film, there was no way this one was going to have a sunny ending and what is delivered is an emotional punch to the gut. The impact left behind as the credits roll is massive and it’s something that leaves you thinking about how you would respond in their situation and it’s in this bleak and very dark ending that ultimately saved the film for me.
|"Soooo...how did everyone handle seeing their family and loved ones die before |
them and watch as all of civilized society broke down and decayed
before our very eyes?"
It Comes at Night contains a terrific cast and the simple concept feels primed and ready for a great intimate thriller that teases a possibility of a larger threat that’s always looming. The movie successfully ushers in some great atmospheric moments, delivers a very traumatic and memorable ending, and has a lot of promise. However, I feel like it wasn’t developed as well as it could have been and had more care been taken, it probably would have resonated better with me. As it is though, it’s a serviceable thriller with enough moments to be intriguing and fairly unsettling but not enough to be genre defining or even a hallmark.