It Comes at Night, a film by up-and-coming director/writer Trey Edward Shults, was released on Friday, and the critical reception made this one a must watch for me. It currently has a 86% on Rotten Tomatoes, which – for a horror movie – is rare.
I finally got to see it last night with a friend, and we both went in without any real knowledge of the plot. I knew it was a post-apocalyptic thriller, but other than the brief (and uninformative) trailer I saw before Get Out, I had very limited exposure to anything prior to showtime.
Usually, this is a good thing. Horror movie trailers (and most trailers, really) just give away too damn much.
I really wish I’d learned a little more about this one beforehand.
Warning: Here Be Spoilers.
The movie stars Joel Edgerton (as Paul), Carmen Ejogo (as Sarah), Kelvin Harrison Jr. (as Travis), Christopher Abbott (as Will), and Riley Keough (as Kim) as survivors of a seemingly worldwide plague that has wiped out much of mankind. Will breaks into the home of Paul, Sarah, and Travis, and after he’s knocked out and tied to a tree for the night, he’s interrogated before Paul agrees to take him back to his wife and son and bring them back to live at the house.
There are rules for living at the house. Everyone must go everywhere in pairs. No one goes out at night. And the red door stays locked all night long.
Seems easy, right?
After bringing them in, all seems to be going well until the family dog, Stanley, sees something in the forest and runs away. The dog shows up at the house later that night, bloody and sick, and has to be put down. Both families agree to be isolated from one another after realizing the red door had been unlocked. By whom? We don’t know. Neither do they. All they know is there might be a risk for sickness.
Paranoia increases as Will’s family discusses leaving, and Paul’s family, afraid that someone would now know where to find them, decide not to allow that. Fearing that Will’s child is sick, Paul and Sarah mask and arm themselves to confront the other family, and all hell breaks loose, ending in the deaths of Will, Kim and their toddler son.
At the end, all is hopeless. Paul and Sarah try to cope with what they have just done, and although the point of the isolation was to prevent any illness, Travis still comes down with it anyway and dies. The movie ends with Paul and Sarah staring at each other across the dining room table.
I understand that this is a film about hopelessness and paranoia. It did a great job at conveying that. I was tense. I felt sad for the characters, especially the dog (always the dog). I just didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I wanted to.
Throughout the whole movie, Travis has nightmares about his dead grandfather, the door, and the forest. The forest seems to hold a lot of dread for him, as he frequently dreams about seeing something terrifying in the trees. He even draws a picture of scary things in the forest. Stanley chases after something in the woods, and his barking is abruptly cut off when he’s out of sight. It just seemed like it was leading up to some big reveal about what was in the woods.
And then the unlocked door. Who unlocked it? What happened there?
All in all, it wasn’t a bad movie, and if I had gone into it knowing the plot, I might have been fine. But IMDb says in its description of the movie that “an unnatural threat terrorizes the world.” To me that doesn’t say sickness, so that threw me off, too.
Should you see it? If you go into it knowing that what comes at night is actually paranoia and there are no creepy creatures in the forest, you’ll probably enjoy it.
But maybe go to a matinee. Save your big bucks for something else.