Review - 'It Comes at Night'
A24 has really been making a name for themselves; the production company produces films that are capable of reaching a semi-mainstream audience while also maintaining a high level of quality that is still very art-house in nature. I've especially enjoyed some of their unconventional horror offerings; particularly Under The Skin, Green Room and The Witch. Their latest, It Comes at Night continues this trend, but for me at least, it was not as fulfilling as some of their other content.
The film follows a family of three as they try to scratch out a living alone in a secluded house. The family has a strict set of rules when it comes to going outside and engaging with other humans due to the undisclosed horrors of the outside world. When a stranger arrives during the night, the father makes the tough decision to bring him and his family in as they are in need and have rations that his family is in desperate need of.
It Comes at Night is sort of a hard film to review. There is certainly a certain crowd of people out there that will find a lot to love about it, but this film is also distinctly not for everyone, in fact, I would say its target demographic is so narrow that very few "casual" moviegoers will likely get what they're looking for.
One of my main issues with It Comes at Night is how many unanswered questions it leaves dangling in the air by the time it abruptly ends. I know that this aspect of the film was probably intentional, but that didn't change the fact that the whole experience ended up feeling like it was all for naught. In addition to this, the title and promotional material for this film are completely misleading. Sure, you can dissect the title It Comes at Night and posit many theories that make certain degrees of sense, but if you're looking for that "it" that "comes at night", you'll be disappointed. A monster film this is not.
The film is also excessively grim; there are very few moments of levity, and when there are instances where are characters are more relaxed and are allowed to take a breath, we know that that only means something truly despicable in nature is lurking right around the corner. That said, there is palpable tension and unease in this film that makes it a consistently engaging experience. I was constantly uncomfortable and on-edge about what was going to befall our protagonists.
Any negative feelings I have towards the film are counterbalanced by some truly top-notch performances. Joel Edgerton plays Paul, an extremely cautious father that will go to any end to protect his family from the threats of the outside world, even if it means he has to kill essentially good people. Edgerton's performance is immersive and gripping and I never once thought I was watching an actor. Kelvin Harrison Jr. also does a superb job as Paul's son, Travis. Harrison Jr. perfectly embodies a young man that has not been completely desensitize by the brutal and unrelenting landscape he has been brought up in. Carmen Ejogo and Christopher Abbot also turn in great performances, but revealing too much about their characters would force me to reveal potentially spoilery information.
Per usual for an A24 release, It Comes at Night is a beautifully shot film. There's really nothing I can criticize from a cinematography standpoint. There is so much imagery in this film that evokes just the right tone that director Trey Edward Shultz was trying to evoke. So from a technical standpoint, this film passes with flying colors.
It Comes at Night is a film filled with dread, tension and excellent performances and that's just enough for me to recommend it. That said, this film is most certainly not for everyone and could be a potentially frustrating theater-going experience if you go in expecting a horror film in the traditional sense.