Set in a mysterious post-apocalyptic world, a man protects his family from the dangers of their surroundings. When another young couple with a small child comes across their secluded and well-fortified house, the family realize that they must open themselves up to outsiders in order to better protect their home and acquire their needs for survival. But is this the right decision?
Before I get started, one of the things I would stress, if you’re planning on seeing this movie, is to avoid the trailers. Before seeing this film, I had only seen the teaser. I heard the first full trailer might have spoiled a little too much of the film, so maybe just check out the teaser, which is a teaser in the truest sense as it gives nothing away. I actually really enjoyed going into this movie knowing next to nothing, which is rarely the case these days, especially with the constant media bombardment of the mega-budget blockbusters.
There was some great buzz for this movie coming out of some of the film festivals at which it has been shown, but truth be told, I was sold solely by the fact that this was an A24 film. With such terrific films as “Moonlight,” “Room,” “Ex Machina,” “Green Room,” “The Witch,” and even Kevin Smith’s “Tusk” (a really bizarre film which, as a huge fan of Smith’s films and podcasts, I totally got and loved) among the relatively new studio’s more notable credits, they just keep proving that they’re completely fearless in the types of unique stories they’re looking to tell. That’s exactly what I was looking for with “It Comes At Night.”
First things first, this film is beautifully shot, which is something I could tell right away even from the teaser trailer. Writer/Director Trey Edward Shults also does a tremendous job of building the suspense throughout the film. This film is all rising tension, peppered with some great moments of unease, and a couple of genuinely creepy scares that are visually disturbing and thoroughly effective. Labeling this a straight horror film might be a bit strong, but I would say it’s a damn fine thriller.
The story is really effective in its simplicity. Just simple, straightforward desperation and paranoia. Given the bleak situations that all of the characters find themselves in, I quite liked that it’s kinda hard to sympathize with one character over another. They all have valid motivations for doing what they do and I found it tough to take issue with any one character’s actions. They are all doing what they should be doing in this type of end of the world setting: trying to survive. They can sometimes get a little carried away, but every choice they make is in service of that goal.
The best part about this film is the performances. I thought Joel Edgerton was the standout of the film as Paul, a man who is so desperate to protect his family that he will do whatever it takes. Really, though, everyone was fantastic. Emotionally speaking, I think most of the heavy-lifting was done by Carmen Ejogo, whose star has definitely been on the rise since Ava DuVernay’s “Selma” in 2014 and she has continued to get some more much-deserved mainstream exposure with recent turns in “Alien: Covenant” and “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them.” Christopher Abbot and Riley Keough also gave terrific performances as Will and Kim, the younger couple who are just looking out for their young son’s well being, especially in the third act. I felt that Paul and Sarah’s teenage son Travis is set up to be possibly the most interesting character, and Kelvin Harrison Jr. does a fine job, I just wish certain things would have gotten explored a bit more with his character, bringing me to my negatives.
Truthfully, it was rather difficult to come up with very many negatives in the film as it was pretty strong overall, however, there were a couple of tiny things that bugged me as I was leaving the theater. One thing that frustrated me was that there was a plot thread or two that didn’t really go anywhere. Certain moments that felt like they were setting up a larger running story plot were abandoned and never even hinted at again. No left turns or twists, they just vanished from the story like they never even happened. I don’t want to spoil anything, but the ones that especially bugged me were things that involved Paul’s son Travis. Thinking certain dramatic turns and confrontations were being teed up, I was a little disappointed that these particular things didn’t really go anywhere.
Finally, and I’ll again try to express my thoughts on this without spoiling the film, but I felt the ending could have been a little bit stronger. I definitely didn’t hate the ending, in fact, I quite liked it in terms of the events that occured. It’s certainly an impactful ending, but I felt the addition of just a couple more moments to answer a lingering question or two would have been nice. I’m not talking big picture answers, most of which weren’t even necessary, I just wanted a couple of small moments or minor emotional beats that I felt were missed out on. I don’t always need everything spelled out for me in a film, but at just 97 minutes, they could have afforded themselves another minute or two to make a good ending even better. But boy, do I enjoy a succinct hour-and-a-half film every now and then. That was nice.
Overall, I really, really dug “It Comes At Night.” It checks practically all the boxes that I could ask of it for a film like this. It was tense, creepy and incredibly emotional. It’s a wonderful addition to the A24 pantheon.
Sadly, though, this film will most likely get overshadowed hitting theaters the same weekend as the Tom Cruise vehicle “The Mummy,” not to mention “Wonder Woman,” which will most definitely stay at the top of the box office in it’s second weekend, but it’s a really good film that deserves some attention. Support the little guy and see it in the theaters while you can. You might not leave the theater skipping, but you will leave it thinking, and sometimes that can be just as fulfilling.
“It Comes At Night” hits theaters June 9th, 2017.
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