I suppose it would be all too easy to compare It Comes at Night with the Viggo Mortensen starrer The Road; Both are dystopic in setting and feeling and use survival as a jumping off point for exploring the evil that lurks within us all. Not wanting to take the road most travelled, allow me to draw parallels with another Cormac McCarthy based movie, No Country for Old Men. It shares a slow build methodology where tension is constantly ramping up, specifically in places you’d least expect. Both works – while one is horror tragedy and the other is cat & mouse suspense – feature sequences about premonition and fate, deeply crawling into the human psyche and latching on like a parasite. And while neither are what I would call narratively surreal, It Comes at Night does, spookily, administer a desolate like atmosphere, reminiscent of David Lynch’s Eraserhead.
Lynch AND McCarthy. That’s a dangerous pairing.
“…a dramatically terrifying tome on the lengths we go to protect and defend.”
It’s not clear from the exposition what exactly the circumstances were that lead a family to live secluded in the woods, boarded up and sheltered off from everyone and anyone else, mostly because there is no traditional exposition. It Comes at Night tells its story through images and behavior, giving us clues and glimpses at the world these people now live in. Apparently, a modern day plague has occurred, one that quickly infects those who touch and breath near it. A family of three, headed by an uber prepared Joel Edgerton, are visited by a mysterious looter, also trying to save his own family of three. What follows is no familiar jump scare series or slasher in the house who done it. This is a dramatically terrifying tome on the lengths we go to protect and defend, to live comfortably together as a community and how we live with ourselves.
From Krisha helmer Trey Edward Shultz, It Comes at Night is best watching without prior knowledge of it. Not to suggest expectations shouldn’t be high or tempered, but the less is known of the plot, the better. No wikipedia spoiler reading, no Reddit searching, no trailer glancing. This is no M. Night Shyamalan “What a TWIST!” – rather, it’s better than gimmicks. At twenty-four paintings a second, not ever is a scene wasted or a moment lacking profundity. A mocked up grave under an uprooted tree dissolves into a perfectly framed establishing shot of the bunker like home, contrasting strikingly and with much artificial and editorial beauty. However meaningful bits like that are, there is enough ambiguity to leave everything up to personal interpretation.
“…a rewarding and valuable time, spent with your own anxiety.”
The performance of Kelvin Harrison Jr – the teenage son to Joel Edgerton’s tough loving father – is something that both must be highlighted and is central in deciphering for yourself what, exactly, is coming at night. His character, Travis, rarely has a good night’s sleep, suffering from nightmares that may foreshadow what’s to come and / or even expose inner passions and hangups. Kelvin plays this through his quiet and creeping walks and his youthful yet sorrowful eyes. He always appears like he’s punishing himself for something, always stepping foot after foot as if on egg shells and hanging his head lower than his shoulders more often than not. Through this, much is learned not about the inciting widespread panic hitting the population beyond the woods, but of the rock that sits in the pit of these families stomachs. Of the shoe that everyone is waiting to drop at any time. Such stress can’t be held together in one young man’s body for too long…
Could the movie have been any more devastating? Perhaps, beyond the Coleman Camping like light products and survivalist attitudes, more could be added to “scare” goers out of their seats, giving an experience over a thought. Giving a chill to snapchat about instead of a discussion to have with self and others. It Comes at Night is not an easily watched time at the cinema, but through its perilous devastation and mood is a rewarding and valuable time, spent with your own anxiety and the lump in your throat that you try to choke down.
Lynch AND McCarthy, indeed.
It Comes at Night (2017): Writer and Director: Trey Edward Shults / Starring: Joel Edgerton, Kelvin Harrison Jr, Riley Keough
5 out of 5