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Review: It Comes at Night

Poster art from A24 Films' IT COMES AT NIGHT

It Comes at Night is asking you to take most of what you know about horror movies out of your head before seeing it. That alone could entice people who are anxious to see something different from the repetitive genre. However, if you decide to check it out, you may be in for a bigger surprise than you were expecting. And by that I mean there’s a legitimate chance that you will leave the theater regretting that you even took the time to head to theater to see what we’re being presented with.

This Trey Edward Shults directed feature is about a family of three (Joel Edgerton, Carmen Ejogo and Kelvin Harrison Jr.) trying to survive in world where a disease is infecting and killing people off in some strange way. The strict rules that live by are some of the few things that have kept them alive up until this point. Dealing with just the family and no outside distractions is something many could probably manage, but life gets a bit more difficult to control once the encounter another couple (Christopher Abbot and Riley Keough) who are bringing along their young child as they search for shelter.

I’ll start off the actual review portion of this piece by saying that I completely dislike the fact that they don’t give us anything to go on at all at any point in the movie. I understand that you want to maintain a level of mystery, but it’s important that you give your audience something that allows them to put at least a few pieces together. Explaining a little bit more could have assisted in helping us understand the nature of the danger these people are facing.

You don’t need to tell your audience everything, but you do need to make sure that we are made aware of something. All we know is that there’s something going around that infects people and takes over their bodies within 24 hours. You would think that in a modern world there would have been some information released at some point in time that the characters would have been aware of, but apparently, they’re just as clueless as we are.

I don’t know how that would even be considered possible since something like this wouldn’t destroy the whole planet that quickly. An outbreak would start at one part of the globe and then spread. This alone would give people time to figure out how much of an impact the virus, disease or whatever it is was having on the world. That would then be reported on the news and all over the internet, but it seems like that and technology in general doesn’t exist in the world of It Comes at Night. I don’t know. Maybe I’m wrong and this takes place in an alternate universe where things look up to date on the surface, but everybody’s actually living in the early 1900’s.

When I think about it, maybe this is exactly why they don’t try to tell us what happened. Knowing that it’s basically not possible, the people behind this can’t honestly explain how any of this would work. If you try to make sense of it like I just did, the movie simply can’t hold up to even basic logic. In order to try to tell this story, the creators behind it probably had to ignore everything else and pretend that there was some sort of mystery behind all of it. Then again, maybe this is the story they wanted, but either way, simply asking the questions that I posed here shows us the problems that exist for people who put any thought into what is being presented.

Anyway, the lack of information also hurts the film because it doesn’t allow the audience to become fully engaged with what is being sold. You’re engaged at the start, but the lack of actual details and scares may prevent you from continuing in that direction. What filmmakers need to understand is that you have to work with the audience to some degree. Yes, you want to tell the story that you want to tell, but it’s ultimately the people who have to like what it is that they’re being asked to pay for. There are also ways to tell the story you want while making something appealing to the masses. It can obviously be done, but that isn’t what happens with this movie.

I think the director and his co-writer wanted to share a message with us about people in dire circumstances more than wanting to craft a story that entertains and tells us why this is happening. If I’m correct, I think they may have accomplished that. This is not a bad thing to put the spotlight on at all, and I understand how something like It Come at Night could have possibly ended up being successful. What will prevent that from happening comes from not developing the parts of the movie that the general public will care about while also not letting them know that they’re not seeing an actual scary movie.

If you want to consider this to be a horror film, I’d venture to say that it’s more of a real world horror film. What I mean is it’s not scary at all if you’re watching it in theaters or on t.v., but it would be frightening if it somehow happened in real life. Then again, I think most of what see in films with plagues, action, war, etc. would also be frightening to the vast majority if they were experienced in real life. So, I don’t know if that’s necessarily a positive for this movie or not.

In order to enjoy this particular movie, you’re going have to look at it as a thriller/drama that includes a small amount of horror elements. While much of the film feels unique, the core elements of the story and how it unfolds rely heavily on the horror conventions much more than you would expect. Since they remove almost all of the familiar features that accompany the usual traits that many will go to see these movies for, this could be another reason why It Comes at Night will ultimately be viewed as a disappointment even if it’s not all that bad to watch.

The best thing you can do is look into the movie before you decide to see it. If you’re willing to watch a zombie movie where the zombies aren’t really anything resembling zombies, you may be able to find something about this to like. Knowing the average audience as well as I think I do, this will not sit well with most. For me, I thought it was a decent movie although I too was a bit let down by what I actually watched. A part of that is due to this not being a genuine horror movie, but the main part was that they decided not to let us in on any of their secrets that they hid from us throughout the entire movie.

Rating: R

Director: Trey Edward Shults

Joel Edgerton
Carmen Ejogo
Kelvin Harrison Jr.
Christopher Abbott
Riley Keough

Film Length: 95 minutes

Release Date: June 9, 2017

Distributor: A24 Films

  • Score - 5/10
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