IT COMES AT NIGHT Review: 8 out of 10 (Dread Deeply)
IT COMES AT NIGHT is not exactly the movie it advertises. It is far better. Instead of being an also-ran scary movie full of body horrors and jumpscares, this film is an absolute primer in building tension and dread. Written and directed by Trey Edward Shults the movie stars Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo, Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Riley Keough.
The film is set in an uncertain future where Paul (Edgerton) has secured his family within a deserted home as an unnatural and indeterminate threat has the world under siege. Paul has created a very tenuous order with his wife (Ejogo) and son Travis (Harrison Jr.) and they seem to be living as best they can in this pseudo-survivalist mode deep in the forest. However, this family order is put to the test with the arrival of a desperate young family seeking refuge. Despite the best intentions of both families, paranoia and mistrust boil over quickly. And then there are those dreams and visions of Travis that wake him in the night...
Shults worked on this film after his own father passed away with cancer--a relationship he himself described as a complicated one. There is certainly some overarching themes here of sickness, grief, and fathers and their sons that hover around the edges and then slowly begin to infect the film. With both family and strangers living in close quarters and a mysterious threat that is "out there" the film works as a dystopian hotbox of a movie. That claustrophobic feeling is accentuated with Shults' subtle use of aspect ratios and close camera work. Edgerton has officially started the clock on when he can begin to receive some serious award chatter...whether for this film or for possible future endeavors. His last several projects have been on point and this performance here doesn't disappoint as a sort of bumbling egotistical wannabe survivalist who is grasping for control in a world that offers him chaos. Kelvin Harrison Jr. is also strong here as the teenage son who rides the line of the voice of conscience for the film along with adding another creepy tone.
To further complicate (for some viewers see: frustrate) the story, there is quite a bit of ambiguity that leaves some plot elements and more than a few motivations by some of the characters that are left up to interpretation. But where IT COMES AT NIGHT really shines is its ability to shed itself of gimmicks, plot twists, or cheap scares and truly develop some old school dread in the audience. This is a dark film with a truly frightening idea at the center. There is a monster out there...and the monster is us.