Movie Review: 'It Comes at Night'
From A24, the studio behind The Witch, It Comes at Night is a psychological horror film starring Joel Edgerton, Carmen Ejogo, Christopher Abbot, Riley Keough, and Kelvin Harrison Jr. The film takes place in a world ravaged by a deadly disease. Society has crumbled and it is kill or be killed. Paul (Joel Edgerton), his wife (Carmen Ejogo), and their son (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) are secluded in a house deep inside the woods. The origin and cause of the disease is unknown. All the family can hope for is to survive—no matter the cost.
Unlike other movies in its genre, the film leaves the fear up to the viewer. We all have survival instincts. And our ability to adapt or do horrific things to survive is truly scary. The movie uses the theme of family to connect the characters we see. Another aspect of the film worth mentioning is its small cast. Due to the lack of people, there's already that sense of dread. This film is not about being scared or frightened about something. As it is about being terrified of what we are capable of.
Since little is given plot wise, the cinematography pushes the film along its horror roots. The film is very dark and there's little light except the daytime scenes. There are also times when the camera would use different lens and use slow moving tracking shots. This had the effect of causing anxiety. Also, the film has a fascination with the color red. It is this kind of symbolism in conjunction with the movie's camera work which makes movie not only scary but suspenseful.
The best films elicit great responses long after the credits stop rolling. The director has managed to not only deliver a chilling narrative, but a through provoking one at that. Small details can only be caught on a second watch. Certain characters behaviors take on a new meaning. And dialogue is critical when a film gives you little background to go off of.
The film also leaves room for reflection. Surely, any parent can relate to Paul and Sarah. Who wouldn't do anything to protect their child? The same goes for Will and Kim. Who out of desperation would not live with strangers to survive? Of all the horror movies out there, the ones that we could see ourselves in should truly be the most frightening.
Humanity, as it is portrayed in the film, brings to the surface the deep-seated terror of what we fear within ourselves. Paul and Sarah love their son Travis more than anything. But, given the situation, they must put aside whoever they were before this. Doing what is right will not help them survive. So even if they must commit atrocities, it is done out of love for each other. Despite its dark narrative, all of its shining moments come from the little or big acts of humanity seen, good or bad.
This is a very psychological film. To be blunt, you will either you get it or you won't. There is no blood, guts, or monsters to provide that visual stimuli some may want from a horror film. Not a spoiler, but it is metaphorical. The film thrives on secrecy and it is best to go in not knowing what to expect.
The scariest thing about It Comes at Night is that is it extremely easy to relate to. We will do anything to protect our families. Plagues of a catastrophic nature existed that killed off huge parts of the population. Ultimately, fear truly causes us to do the most horrifying things. The film is small and apocalyptic based. Therefore, any horror buff or moviegoer looking for a real story featuring real character will not need to look further.
It Comes at Night is available on DVD, Blu-Ray, and available streaming platforms.