reflection

I'm not saying that 'It Comes At Night' is a terrible film, but I am questioning why you would spend money to see something that's so average.
Acting
Writing
Directing
Music
Production Design

‘It Comes At Night’ Review: Just An Average Horror Film And Nothing More

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It Comes At Night is an average horror film that’s being presented as if it’s some edgy tale of terror.

Summary

The film centers on Paul (Joel Edgerton), his wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo), and their son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.). Apparently, the apocalypse has happened, and there’s some mysterious disease that is affecting humans. Anyone who contracts this disease ends up getting these festering boils and begin to vomit blood (yep, kinda gross). It’s at this juncture that nearly everyone in the theater is waiting for the zombies to show up but alas, nothing. The disease begins to impact Paul’s family as Sarah’s dad somehow contracts the illness and he begins to spiral out of control. Paul and Travis take him out to a nearby field to end his misery by shooting him in the temple and burning his remains. Just as the family is trying to recover from having to essentially euthanize their grandfather, they now have to deal with a strange man trying to break into their home. They eventually track down Will (Christopher Abbott) and realize he’s less hostile and more desperate to find food and shelter for his family. Paul finally agrees to help his family in exchange for livestock that hasn’t been affected by this apocalyptic plague. Eventually, the families begin to converge and begin to live together. It’s at this point that things go from bad to worse.

What Worked

Director Trey Edward Shults decision to have most of the film unfold inside Paul’s family compound was the right call. It gave the audience a feeling of being both trapped and heightened the paranoia of the narrative.

It Comes At Night

Loved the dark and monochrome color pallet that Shults choose.

The soundtrack was put together well. The music was both stirring and scary as hell. Brian McOmber deserves much praise.

What Didn’t Work

Shults attempted to create a narrative that was smartly constructed, much in the way Jordan Peele wrote Get Out.  Instead of a story that was well crafted, unique, and frightening, what we got was more of the same. There is nothing in the film that separates itself from the rest of the psychologically based horror movies.

With the exception of Paul, the rest of the characters in the film are entirely forgettable. It’s as if Shults was attempting to finish up his mad-libs horror edition when he wrote this script. 

Shults is trying to heighten the paranoia of the audience by not exactly revealing what’s causing all these people to get sick. While I can understand the need to keep things somewhat muddled, you can’t just have people straight up getting sick for no reason. The audience needs to be let in on what’s going on, even if it’s just slightly. Is it Zombies? Is it some flesh eating bacteria? Let someone in on what’s happening! Shults avoided explaining much of the exposition of this story, and it just left us asking more questions. Why did they need the gas masks? How did they end up in the middle woods? Why is it they burn the bodies after shooting them in the head?

Why is it that most of the terror was only seen through Paul’s son? Anyone who has watched a fair selection of horror films has seen that horror trope quite a number of times.

Overall

Some critics are rushing to anoint It Comes At Night as this smartly written horror film in the same way critics gushed over Get Out. In fact, as of Tuesday, the A24 release has a rating of 87% on Rotten Tomatoes. Before anyone starts throwing a party and allowing the cast to take a victory lap, can we just take a moment and think? How exactly is this film any different than any typical psychologically based horror film? What does this horror film accomplish that others do not? I can answer that question about Get Out but draw a huge blank when it applies to It Comes At Night. The reason is that Joel Edgerton’s latest film is just like most psychologically based horror films. An average narrative with a fairly familiar ending. These days, with the quality of horror films being released, average just isn’t good enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dewey Singleton - Film Critic
I'm a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and have been doing reviews for many years. My views on film are often heard in markets such as Atlanta, Houston, and satellite radio. My wife often tolerates my obsession for all things film related and two sons are at an age now where 'Trolls' is way cooler than dad. Follow me on twitter @mrsingleton.

2 COMMENTS

  1. You know before you go running to claim your right and everyone else is wrong. It’s a review. It’s your opinion. You know this. You didn’t like it. But the rest of those critics did. I read some of the other reviews and you get the impression it was the camera work that really sold this film for a lot of them. Not the performances persay maybe not even the sound.

    You bring up the story and like you I wish they did take more risks with letting relatively still unknown film makers make really unique films. But like you said above average is the new good right now because so much crap comes out. My answer to all of that is make the films yourself. Write that screen play. Become or find that director. Reviews are cheap but films are not.

    • Clay –
      I’ve never claimed to be the final say on any film. I get asked to go to these screenings and provide my thoughts on the overall piece. Like I said, a lot of critics are gushing over this film and it’s obvious that I’m in the minority. If you go and see the film, let me know what your take is. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment.

Comments are closed.