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It Comes at Night Movie Review

It Comes at Night (2017) movie poster It Comes at Night

Theatrical Release: June 9, 2017 / Running Time: 97 Minutes / Rating: R

Writer/irector: Trey Edward Shults

Cast: Joel Edgerton (Paul), Christopher Abbott (Will), Carmen Ejogo (Sarah), Riley Keough (Kim), Kelvin Harrison Jr. (Travis), Griffin Robert Faulkner (Andrew), David Pendleton (Bud), Mikey (Stanley)

 

The title and marketing campaign for It Comes at Night
create expectations for a horror movie full of jump scares and ghastly imagery. The postapocalyptic psychological thriller you actually get is quite a bit different and most likely better than the hypothetical frightfest being advertised, but genre fans still may be disappointed to have been deceived.

Writer-director Trey Edward Shults follows up his highly acclaimed and commercially irrelevant debut Krisha with a bigger budget and bigger cast, but seemingly the same unmainstream instincts. It Comes opens with a father, Paul (Joel Edgerton), and his 17-year-old son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), burying, killing, and burning the boy's grandfather, who is clearly suffering from some ambiguous ailment.

Paul (Joel Edgerton) questions would-be night thief Will (Christopher Abbott) about his actions and intentions in "It Comes at Night."

Such a procedure is protocol in these times, although the film chooses not to answer all, or really any of, the questions you might have. What is this illness that is treated as something highly contagious? What is "it" and why is it coming at night?

Shults opts to keep things insulated, claustrophobic, and vague. Paul, his wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo), and Travis are looking out for themselves and for Stanley, the dog that Grandpa left behind. There's an ominous red door that is locked at night that keeps the outside world (whatever that may entail) at bay. But one night, a drifter tries to break in. Will (Christopher Abbott) claims he is just looking to provide for his own wife and child. Regarding his account with the greatest of suspicion, Paul reluctantly believes the night thief and agrees to let Will's family (Riley Keough and Griffin Robert Faulkner) move in with his in exchange for some livestock.

Seventeen-year-old Travis (Kevin Harrison Jr.) goes searching in the dark woods with a torch in hand.

That is the main thrust of plot we get here. This is an narrow-focused drama that is far more interested in the desperate measures humanity will take in desperate times than in detailing the threat that has pushed them there. Most questions do not get answered. Those that do are illuminated slowly over time. The biggest scares tend to be dream sequences that are not clearly presented as that.
But the atmosphere and bleak tone do get under your skin and into your mind, as you wonder what would you do faced with a similar situation.

Edgerton has proven himself a talented actor in a wide range of films, so it's no surprise he's compelling here as the lead and voice of reason. Abbott, who was very good in the little-seen James White, manages to be on Edgerton's level. Harrison gets a lot of screentime and makes the most of it with complexity maturity beyond his young age.

Naturally, It Comes at Night does not resonate most as a showcase for acting. It's also not so scary you have to look away. Most of the time, it finds that happy medium between horror and drama. It unsettles but with a foot firmly planted in reality, keeping you thinking and guessing. The ending is anticlimactic yet inevitable. You're left not feeling great about this universe or the real one it is meant to reflect. But at least it's not just more of the same, and that's something to value in a movie that is even just being mismarketed as straight horror.

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Reviewed June 9, 2017.



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