It Comes at Night

Director: Trey Edward Shults

Starring: Joel Edgerton, Riley Keough, Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo, Kelvin Harrison, Griffin Robert Faulkner

Rated: R (violence, disturbing images, and language)

Secure within a desolate home as an unnatural threat terrorizes the world, a man has established a tenuous domestic order with his wife and son, but this will soon be put to test when a desperate young family arrives seeking refuge.

 

It Comes at Night

By Cole Schneider

“It Comes at Night” isn’t typical summer fare; neither is it a typical horror film. Anyone looking for entertainment will be disappointed. It’s been billed as a movie about a family hiding in the woods from a looming, unnatural threat and while technically that’s true, it misrepresents the film. The looming, unnatural threat isn’t Freddy or Jason, it isn’t some familiar monster, and it won’t provide any jump scares.

Horror villains and jump scares are designed to jolt the audience for a moment with a thrill before providing an equal measure of relief in the next moment. “It Comes at Night” is more nuanced in its design. It doesn’t want to scare you, because it doesn’t want to let you off the hook that easily. It wants to terrify you on a deep, existential level. It wants to clutch you in such a way that when the present moment ends—even when the film ends—you cannot escape its clutches.

Everything about “It Comes at Night” is frustrating. It’s ambiguous when we expect answers and it’s quiet and meditative when we expect fireworks. Its supernaturalism is too natural for our horror-trope loving selves. As everything unravels we begin to recognize the movie’s ‘monster’ and we know him far too well. We don’t truly fear zombies or aliens or witches or vampires—the only thing we truly have to fear is fear itself. With technical precision and contemplative patience, “It Comes at Night” lays this primal fear before us through the lens of a child wrestling with the many horrors of the adulthood he is entering into. And his journey is much more terrifying than a monster ever could be.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

 

It Comes at Night

By Matt Greene

How do you review a film too challenging to blanketly recommend, but is among the best this year? That’s exactly my predicament with It Comes a Night, a movie marketed as a bump-in-the-night scarefest, but in reality is a deathly serious, brutally difficult critique of fear and isolation. Unlike your basic monster / slasher flick, this will disturb you on a deeper level, something not everyone will want. It’s a taut, tight paranoia drama full of stunning visuals and killer performances, in which the monster is the state of dread itself.

A small family is holed-up in a cabin deep in the woods, trying to isolate themselves from a world being overtaken by a deathly plague. With the pacing of a southern gothic tale, the plot unspools with a mysterious naturalism, in which most of the horror elements (decrepit bodies, dark spaces) occur during nightmares and visions. In the reality of the film, the foreboding intensity that overwhelms the screen comes from a skin-crawling sense more than visceral fright. The looks of people’s faces. The disturbing framing of a shot. The obscure design of a tree. The impending sense of death.

It really is a rare beast of a summer movie, in which the filmmakers aren’t just looking for money, but are looking purpose. With flowing camera movements, long-takes, uncomfortable focus and symmetry, and uniquely brilliant lighting, Shults gives us one of the most beautiful and intentionally visual films since possibly his last under-seen gem Krisha. The performances are remarkable, with Edgerton continuing his surprising ascent to being of the most interesting dudes in Hollywood. If you’re looking for escapism, you’ll be disappointed; if you’re looking for greatness, look no further.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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