New Review: 'It Comes at Night' (2017)

Updated on October 30, 2017

Director: Trey Edward Shults
Cast: Joel Edgerton, Carmen Ejogo, Kelvin Harrison, Jr., Christopher Abbot, Riley Keough, Griffin Robert Faulkner, and David Pendleton

Writer and director Trey Edward Shults has stated in interviews that It Comes At Night was written as a way of coping with his father’s death. “It’s the closest I’ve come to death,” he said in an interview that’s posted on the website Uproxx. It makes sense then that the movie opens with a young woman speaking words of comfort to her father, who’s dying from a catastrophic virus that’s taken out much of the world. “It’s okay,” she tells him. “You can let go.” She’ll say these words again near the end of the film, but under far more tragic circumstances.

Because the movie is bookended with the “You can let go” line, as well as a metaphorical shot of one character with a lantern walking down a dark hallway to a red door that’s the only way in and out of the film’s main set, it becomes clear what the “It” of the movie’s title is in reference to. It’s not some monster or zombie; rather, it’s something far more terrifying. It’s something which cannot be defeated, and which eventually and unexpectedly comes for us all, “like a thief in the night” (to quote the Good Book).

It makes for a deeply personal and harrowing story, but one thing needs to be made clear. In spite of its title and the creepy trailers, It Comes at Night is not a horror movie. There are times where it goes for terror, but every single one of its efforts are thwarted by the film’s overuse of the “it was only a dream” cliché (it gets positively maddening when we get the ol’ “dream-within-a-dream” routine). It works best as a family drama, and a tale about the horrifying lengths people will go to protect the ones they love.

Someone fetch me my teeth!!!
Someone fetch me my teeth!!!

The majority of the movie takes place in a boarded-up house in the woods, where ex-school teacher Paul (Joel Edgerton) lives with his wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo), teen son Travis (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.), and family dog Stanley. After the harrowing opening scene where Paul wheelbarrows his father-in-law out into the woods and euthanizes him, the family hears someone breaking into their house later that evening, and that's when they encounter Will (Christopher Abbot). He says he was simply looking for food to feed his family, although Paul leaves him tied up to a tree for a whole day to make sure that he’s not infected.

Once convinced, Paul invites Will, his wife Kim (Riley Keough), and young son Andrew (Griffin Robert Faulkner) to stay in his house, on the condition that they help out around the house. While Travis seems attracted to the free-spirited Kim, things seem to work out just fine with the two families living under the same roof. At least, for a while that is.

Out of the five characters in the house, the two who captured my interest the most were Paul and Will. Both are decent men who love their families and would do anything to protect them, and in a terrifically written and acted moment between the two men, we get the sense that both have had to do things to protect the ones they love that they normally wouldn’t do (as misleading as the trailers are, the tagline “fear turns men into monsters” is chillingly appropriate for this film). This is especially true of Will, who is caught in a lie he told Paul about staying with his brother. As awful as the things are that we see them do, it’s to the credit of Edgerton and Abbot that we remain invested and sympathetic toward the two men.

What a weird supply to take with you on a hunting trip! O.O
What a weird supply to take with you on a hunting trip! O.O

The women in the film are even better, with Ejogo turns in a heart-breaking performance as Sarah and Keough creating a haunting figure out of her Kim (and the blood-curdling scream she lets out in the end hit me with the force of a sledgehammer to the gut). Harrison, Jr. is in the majority of the scenes, and he carries himself very well, proving himself to be charismatic enough of an actor to be leading man material.

Shults works with his talented behind-the-scenes crew to create a sumptuously atmospheric visual feast, with the highlight being Karen Murphy’s elegant production design, Naomi Monroe’s stunning art direction, and Sally Levi’s excellent set-decoration. With their work, the house itself and the woods surrounding it almost become like extra characters. Shults also manages to craft a couple of bitingly suspenseful sequences (such as when Paul and Will are attacked during a drive through the woods), and while Shults’ decision to leave so many questions unanswered gets to be frustrating at times, sometimes it works to the movie’s advantage. Not telling us what attacked Stanley after the mutt ran into the woods does add weight to the movie’s bleak and deeply lacerating final shot.

Now about that final shot. I think it’s the perfect conclusion to the movie. In fact, I can’t see the movie ending in any other way. While the movie is not really scary, that final shot does end with the characters coming to the terrifying and sad realization that no matter what you’re willing to do to protect your family, there are just some things in the world that you can never protect them from.

Final Grade: *** (out of ****)

Rated R for violence, blood, disturbing images, language

What did you think of this movie?

Cast your vote for It Comes At Night (2017)

As misleading as this trailer is, I still love it!

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, reelrundown.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://reelrundown.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)