We live in the best era of horror movies. There is absolutely no question about it. For the past few years, we’ve received a constant stream of really well done independent horror flicks that never fail to impress me. It Comes At Night is no different.
Here’s the fundamental issue with It Comes At Night. It is not a traditional horror movie. This isn’t a problem for people like myself who can appreciate the craft of making a subversive movie with horror elements, but for most general audiences, this will prove to be very frustrating. Another trend amongst movies recently is films that masquerade as horror films that underneath are really something much more intriguing. The Babadook, for instance, wasn’t at its core a horror film so much as it was a delicate portrayal of grief. It Comes At Night, is in essence, a case study of human morality and the way in which we see each other. It is not going to terrify you in the way a film like The Conjuring will. What it will do to you is something remarkably different. We’ll get into that a little later, but first, I’m supposed to tell you what the movie’s about. I’d rather not, as I went in completely blind and came out absolutely floored, but I understand that not everyone’s minds work that way. So if you’d prefer to go in without preconceived notions like me, skip the next paragraph. Otherwise, proceed as you wish.
This film is set in a reality where a disease has plagued the human race. A family who is immune has set up a safe house in the woods when all of a sudden a stranger arrives on their doorstep. The story that follows is a tense conflict between people whose intentions you never fully know. It has elements of Children of Men and 10 Cloverfield Lane, with a little bit of The Invitation thrown in for good measure.
As I said before, this is not a horror movie in the traditional sense. It doesn’t rely on upsetting imagery and loud screeching noises to frighten you. What it does instead is appeal to the inherent belief that all people have that humans are at their core selfish and dangerous people, and then explores what they will do when pushed to the edge. It is a moral horror story where your brain unsettles you subconsciously by placing you in the shoes of the characters in the story. It’s very, very well done. The writer/director is a man named Trey Edward Shults who wrote and directed another moral horror story in 2015 called Krisha. Both of these efforts are impeccably done with an auteur’s edge that will make him someone to watch. Of course, he’s aided by a terrific cast. There’s about six individuals total in the film and every one of them serves the film with incredible skill. It has a terrifically atmospheric score and benefits greatly from a cinematographer with a true artist’s eye who gave the movie an intimate feel so you can really find yourself empathizing with each of the characters. At the end of the day, I will understand if you do not like this film. Arthouse Horror movies are not for everyone. I personally loved the movie and felt there were only a few bits that could have been cut out. Overall I think it’s a terrific piece of storytelling that deserves its place in the sun.
All images are from It Comes At Night, a film by A24