Director: Trey Edward Shults
Starring: Joel Edgerton, Carmen Ejogo, Christopher Abbot
Review Author: Tony
Rating: 4.25/5 Brandies in the dark.
Oh post-apocalyptic films, why do your depictions of misery and the decline of humanity bring me such joy. Films like Children of Men, The Road and 28 Days Later have all shown grim reflections of humanities struggle for survival after cataclysmic events and all films I would recommend to any cinema lover.
Set during the twilight of an unnamed plague which has ravaged humanity, a family of three have barricaded themselves in a large house in the woods. Opening to the sound of wheezing, the film introduces us to the effects of the plague as an elderly relative is at death’s door covered in skin defects and boils. As the family tearfully say their goodbyes, whilst donned in rubber gloves and gas masks, the father and son bring their loved one to the forest where they execute him and burn the body. This is the world now where one must shed all compassion or empathy as there is no longer any margin for error.
Paul is the patriarch of the family running his household on a very specific and strict set of rules. It’s not pretty but Paul and his wife, Sarah, and son, Travis, eek out a living in seclusion. Their isolation is abruptly interrupted by a desperate stranger named Will. Paul knocks out Will, ties him to a tree and listens to his story. Paul decides to let Will and his family shack up with his own although it’s a calculated decision and not a compassionate one.
It Comes at Night is a bleak affair oozing in tension and dread. There’s a sense of tragedy and terror bubbling at surface level at all times. The cabin is shrouded in darkness and suffocates the viewer with narrow hallways and thick shadows, it’s no sanctuary.
Director Shults crafts a dreary, intense mood throughout. From start to finish there’s a raw sense of discomfort and uneasiness. We know nothing of these characters back stories but we know what their prime objective is, survive at all costs. You begin to understand these peoples paranoia, why they are so distant and cold. They’ve seen true horrors and lost everything. Suddenly small irregularities in characters stories begin to gnaw away in your own mind as you question what would you do in this situation, a situation where a single lapse in judgment equals death. It’s an exploration of the darker corners of our mind and how we can rationalize such thoughts.
Many filmgoers may feel duped by the marketing for the film as it certainly gave the appearance of a sort of supernatural horror. To put it frankly, it isn’t, if you’re left wondering what it is that comes at night there are no ghosts or demons, instead there are the monstrous acts humans can inflict upon each other in dire situations. As the film was released earlier this year I was warned that the film was very different from what was being marketed, but I fear many cinemagoers will not be as informed and be left quite disappointed, or stripped of their innocence.
That’s not to say the film isn’t scary as it sits quite comfortably within the horror genre. Travis, the son, is haunted by terrifying nightmares which produce some heart-stopping scares. The first nightmare sequence had a teenage couple rushing out of the theater. These sequences are shot with such menace and alarm I could feel my hairs standing up as I clenched my seat.
It Comes at Night is a tightly directed psychological horror with a superb cast and a pulsating score. It’s a haunting piece of cinema that makes you question your own morals and how far you would go to ensure the survival of the ones you love. Schults has certainly made a name for himself as a director to watch.