BlueCat Review – It Comes At Night

It Comes at Night – Character within Genre. 

 

By Andrew Schwartz

One year ago, writer-director Trey Edward Shults, stated in an interview with NoFilmSchool.org, “my goal is to intermesh stuff that can find an audience while at the same time can be something unique.” He was probably referring to his newest effort, It Comes At Night. The idea of world’s end is in popular with audiences and Shults is capitalizing with a fresh take on post-apocalyptic narrative. 

It Comes At Night begins in a world in which a noxious pathogen has decimated humanity. A single family’s survival is the primary focus for the hour and a half long film. When another family struggling family appears looking for food, water and shelter, Paul (Joel Edgerton) and his family reluctantly take them in with hopes of doubling down on their survival odds. With the newcomers, comes a new paranoia. Paul soon learns that living by his survival routine is difficult, but protecting his family will come at a higher cost.

 

Not what, but who is involved? 

 

What makes this film interesting is apocalyptic aspect, but how people — families — deal with it. Shults barely offers insight into the cataclysmic event that triggered the sickness of so many people, but its omnipotent effect is felt non-the-less. In this light, the evil that haunts Paul and his family comes not from outside threat, but from within. This film demands viewers to focus more intently on who it’s about rather than what it’s about. Ultimately, it shows us what men and women are truly capable of with desperate times at hand.

Shults focuses less on plot and more on character, especially on Paul’s intermediate family, Sarah, his wife played by Carmen Ejogo, and son, Travis, played by Kelvin Harris Jr. Travis’ scenes are particularly haunting. His view point, steeped in the lost innocence of a boy not old enough to buy cigarettes, is the easiest perspective for the audience to empathize and engage with. Joel Edgerton delivers a masterful performance, but Harris’ is our link to the world as we get a glimpse into the disturbing night terrors he’s been having since the film’s apocalyptic event. 

 

Good Characters create tension. 

 

Shults also offers a master-class in tension with this film. It Comes At Night thrusts us into this world as pure observers to a family trying to survive in the face of so much loss. At times, the imagery is utterly disturbing; the drawn out steadicam sequences compliment the dark undertones of the film, in a particularly spine-tingling way. Paired with the ominous score, thrills don’t jump out, but instead creep up and eat away at you. The film is a new dog relying on old tricks.

It Comes At Night definitely stands out as one of the year’s best. The film’s minimalist approach offers a unique take on a widely used story. The psychological thrills it effortlessly pulls-off will pave the way for a different format of film. Shults created a horror film with a monster that is ultimately a terrifying reflection of mankind.

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3 Responses to “BlueCat Review – It Comes At Night”

  1. Gloria Says:

    June 11th, 2017 at 6:33 am

    Don’t know what movie you are describing but it certainly wasn’t what I saw yesterday. As far as I’m concerned I wasted my money on the worst movie I have seen in a couple of years. No scary scenes, or music. Just bodies being dragged into graves. Horrible!!!!!

  2. Chris Says:

    June 14th, 2017 at 8:33 pm

    So, this movie was just an hour and a half long short film. I’m going to disagree with you on most of your points, particularly …”master class in tension building”. There wasn’t really any tension, just an annoying feeling that we wish this film was over. There wasn’t really a protagonist, the main character, such as he was, was uninvolving, and I wouldn’t call it a story, it was more like a concept. Like I said, a short film.
    I agree that it was visually excellent, all the work of the DP, and not the writer.
    Any tension that was created was ruined as we continued not to find out anything about any monster (which was/was not in the woods maybe), or anything about the ‘virus’, other than it was fatal (yawn).
    Yes, you are correct. A few (not even a bunch!) of tired tropes kind of looped together in a ‘minimalist’ fashion, with some great actors and a really good DP. Ultimately depressing, which is what I think the reviewer class is fascinated by, but not a good movie, and not really a story at all.
    So what DIDN’T work. Constant dream sequences, which seemed to be where any ‘scary’ stuff was…that really saps the tension. Even the sad old bag of a dream within a dream. Really? No one to root for, who I would call the main character usually also protagonist. There’s no one in this story who the audience can really take the viewpoint of. If you call that ‘focussing less on plot and more on character”, ok, but the characters had nothing special going on. The foreshadowing was so heavy and clunky you could anchor a boat with it, i.e. “you can’t trust anyone but family, son”, said by the guy who is obviously going to be the sociopathic ‘monster’, and surprise! that guy is a sociopathic monster. I mean, that’s not suspense, it’s a joke you tell in your writer’s meetup. And finally, a horror movie needs something scary in it, not just the manufactured paranoia of a group of people who are thrust together by the writer to be afraid of each other.

  3. Gina Says:

    June 27th, 2017 at 10:21 am

    Given the write up and these few comments, I’m definitely going to have to see this film.

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