Same as what happened with A24’s ‘The Witch’, the movie has been marketed as a bump-in-the-night zombie scarefest. Another case of trailers and advertising being adverted to show a different film from what it actually ends up being. ‘It Comes At Night’ is a taut and tight psychological horror full of stunning visuals and killer performances, in which the monster is the state of dread itself. But despite the bad advertising of the trailers, I also think movie audiences today are just so incredibly used to being given all the answers. In my screening, I was the only one who believed to have witnessed a modern masterpiece in the theater, while the rest was just yelling dumb expletives when the first credit popped up.
The film speaks of the atrocities that humanity can bare witness to; when it is attested to the natural-based human fears of trust and paranoia. It is a film that speaks about humanity, as a whole; a film that is not meant for the main-stream audience, if they are expecting a stereotypical horror film that is devoid of philosophical allegories. It is blessed by a wonderful original score and very convincing performances by its entire small cast. The characters are believable and the tensions created by the situations in the film are all too realistic. The cinematography is immersive and claustrophobic in the best way possible. Perhaps best of all, the film does not rush or dawdle; the pacing is precise and measured.
Writer/director Trey Edward Shults has crafted a genuinely unnerving and unpleasant look at a dire situation. And I’m not talking about the situation in terms of the mysterious illness that threatens at every moment. I’m talking about the hope that none of us ever have to be in a place where the worst and most primal of our instincts become that which we must live by. By being intentionally ambiguous, Shults allows the audience to project its own fears onto the film. How would you react in this situation? What is the “it” that you fear? What is the “it” that comes at night to haunt your dreams? The “it” is the ultimate fear, specific to each viewer. Trey Edward Shults definitely feels like an ambitious and confident filmmaker behind the lens.
The editing is also quite oppressively ambitious. The film as a whole is very well-edited, and if you go to see this movie, note the use of changing the aspect ratio to adapt the film to the change of reality. Shults already used this editing technique with his first movie Krisha, where each act/development of the movie has its own aspect ratio. The editing specifically distinguishing between the real world and the character’s dream helps highlight some of the films core themes and helps bring the ending in a bigger perspective. Shults definitely aimed for making the editing a pivotal element of the film and a driving force of how the film is viewed, and I think it works for the most part. But the technique has its flaws, though it shows a level of cinematic self-awareness and ambitiousness that I am compelled to at least respect since at the end of the day it didn’t make or break my watching experience.
Eerily effective, Brian McOmber’s score is atmospherically consistent with the film and much of the soundtrack in the second act in particular does wonders in helping build the tension and emotion of the film’s development. The simple and “barebones” choice of instruments playing distinct and simple notes helps underline the films themes of bare bones survival and is just an all-around strong piece of sound-making.
Joel Edgerton, who has made his career on taking on character driven stories, musters up yet another jarring turn as homeowner, Paul. Supporting performances from Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo, Kelvin Harrison Jr., and Riley Keough are more than enough to take this atmospheric horror to the next level. It may turn some people off who were expecting a faster paced horror, but ‘It Comes at Night’ is more than your average scare-fest. It proves what isn’t seen can be more emotionally powerful and more terrifying than something on-screen when done correctly.
‘It Comes At Night’ gets a 9.0/10
Shot on 35's Rating Sheet: 9.5 – 10.0: Excellent! 8.5 – 9.5: Fantastic, but with minor flaws 7.5 – 8.5: Great, but with issues 6.5 – 7.5: Okay, but with major issues 5.5 – 6.5: Had potential, but falls flat hard. 4.5 – 5.5: Disaster!
Follow me on Twitter for more random movie, comics & sports stuff here.
You can also follow my Letterboxd account to see my movie activity here.