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