“It Comes at Night” is written and directed by Trey Edward Schultz and stars Joel Edgerton, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo, and Riley Keough. The film takes place in a world where some sort of sickness has plagued the lives of many and is about a family that lets in a very desperate family looking for a place to stay, and the continuing strain that this puts on both groups as they attempt to survive in this dystopian universe.
This is a movie that I was incredibly excited to see, as A24 has backed some of the most creative, most well-made films over the past few years (“Moonlight”, “Room”, “The Lobster”, “The Witch”), and the trailers promised a dark, terrifying horror film with some fresh ideas.
The performances across the board are exceptional, with all five of the main cast members shining in quite unique ways. Kelvin Harrison Jr. impressed me the most in his role as Travis, as he ends up being pretty much the main character, and he displays the emotions of fear and sadness incredibly well. Joel Edgerton is as solid as always, and his stern role as the unspoken leader is one that had me consistently on edge.
Christopher Abbott and Riley Keough are both great as well as the other family, and the dynamic between these two and Edgerton’s family makes for such an intense dynamic, one even more intense than the world existing around them. Trey Edward Schultz directs the hell out of this movie and makes the human conflict between two untrusting families the most gripping element in a film involving a plague.
Schultz tells this story with such a unique flare that allows the film to entirely stand out from other movies with a similar general premise. The way this film creates horror through one character’s nightmares could have been cheap, but instead, it is consistently effective and always feels brutally important. The storytelling is absolutely brilliant from start to finish, as Schultz gives the audience just enough to keep the intrigue, but never enough so that I have to always figure out which characters to root for and who to believe, and this unknown makes the movie a truly special one to watch, as almost no piece of information is given to the audience directly, and it makes for a gripping story for all three acts.
The camerawork by Drew Daniels is some of the best you will see in any movie this year, as the movement of the camera ebbs and flows to create completely mesmerizing shots, as well as some extra tension, and even more powerful emotion. The use of fades in and out by the editing team and the steadiness of the camera in scenes that almost use a first-person perspective white-knuckle so gorgeously that they can completely enwrap you in a scene that could have been dull otherwise. This, added to the brooding score by Brian McOmber makes for a film that is relentless with its tension, and one that is pure art in its aesthetics.
I’ve touched on this, but I love how Schultz avoids overloading on the story and gives just the bare necessities and lets the audience figure it out for themselves. There is virtually zero setup into this world at all, and that is because it is completely unneeded, and it makes this story feel smaller in scale, and that works to the movie’s benefit. There are so many moments where we just do not know what is real and what we can believe, and this makes every single minute of the movie wrapped in mystery, and it creates a white-knuckle feel of tension that is just inescapable for the full 91-minute runtime.
As with the A24 horror masterpiece, “The Witch”, this film’s tension reaches a breaking point in the final act that leads to a finale that 100 percent pays off, as this scene is one of the most thrilling, downright emotional moments in a movie all year. Schultz once again never lets us know what to believe about his characters, leading to a totally fulfilling conclusion that leaves many questions unanswered, and had me reeling for hours on end.
If I had to give this movie a flaw, I would say that there is almost too much ambiguity, with just not enough questions answered to have a full grasp of what goes on throughout the film. This is, of course, an intentional move, as Schultz wants to leave every door opened and close none of them on the way out, but this leaves some questions that feel nearly impossible to get resolution from, which is slightly disappointing after seeing such an exquisitely well-crafted film, because I just want some answers to my infinite questions.
“It Comes at Night” is a master class in how to correctly build tension, as it is a perfectly shot, tremendously acted powerhouse that doesn’t give in for a second. It is a slow burn, but one that works relentlessly and effectively throughout its many moments, and it had me on the edge of my seat wanting more until the very end. I had to see this movie twice to try to wrap up loose ends, and even that wasn’t enough, as Trey Edward Schultz does such a brilliant job directing and writing a movie that is so interesting and so refreshing that I continually felt the need to know more about what is happening.
Now, I have heard from many audience members that this is a film that is nowhere near a hit for many, as some are calling it one of the worst movies they’ve ever seen. I am not sure if that is from a potentially misleading title, though I think there is definitely reasoning for it, or from a certain trailer that paints this movie in a much different light than it actually ends up being. So, with that being said, don’t come in expecting a jump scare show or one that wraps up the entire story in a nice little bow. “It Comes at Night” is a film that dares to leave things unanswered and dares to go outside of the traditional clichés that we see far too often, and is truly one of the best movies I have seen this year.
(This is a phenomenal teaser on its own, but isn’t a great representation of the film itself.)
What did you think of “It Comes at Night”? Comment below with your thoughts.