An older man sits shirtless in a room covered in plastic. His eyes are sunken with black pupils. Discolored spots on top of pale skin are clearly visible on his thin and deteriorating body. The old man cough and wheezes with blood lingering around the lips. The haunting image is worsened by the whispers of I love you from his grown daughter wearing a gas mask. Another man wearing a gas mask and hazard gear lifts the sickly man into a wheelbarrow. They exit the plastic covered door and enter the woods. The man pushing the wheel barrow asks the seventeen-year-old boy helping him if he has anything to say. “I love you, grandpa.” The man puts a pillow over the sickly man’s face then presses the barrel of a gun tightly to the pillow…
IT COMES AT NIGHT is a different sort of horror movie. One that I cannot recommend to everyone but one I enjoyed quite a bit. Traditional jump scare horror films have there place, but sometimes it’s the quieter turns of reality and human nature that is far more haunting.
Set deep in the woods, IT COMES AT NIGHT follows a family trying to survive. What it is they are trying to survive isn’t clear but we know immediately that they don’t want to get the highly contagious virus that human and animals can easily carry. The windows of their home are boarded up and the bright bolted red door is the only way in and out.
Writer and director Trey Edward Schults is an up and coming talent whose impressive directorial debut with 2016’s KRISHA proves he understand atmosphere better than most. Schults furthers that example with IT COMES AT NIGHT. Understanding his characters and the place they are in, Schults gives a structure and path for the audience to familiarize with. The dark hallway leading to the red door builds the tension to what is beyond. The shadows cast by the candle light as one turns down the hallway creates a discomfort as the audience is able to recognize the difficulty of the situation without understanding what is actually going on.
The actors likewise commit to their roles with Joel Edgerton leading the way as the patriarch. Too many times characters in film become a bit too desensitized by violence, pain, or death. The horror that the characters see or commit feel authentic. The extreme actions are regrettable but necessary and each person is pained yet understanding to what needs to be done. Edgerton wears the emotions of guilt and sorrow but keeps a stern exterior holding true to his most important principal – keep his family alive. However, as a counterpoint, his seventeen-year-old son Travis, played terrifically by Kelvin Harrison Jr., has a more difficult time with the world they now live in. It’s through his eyes we see their existence come alive and it’s through his innocence and desires that we must partake.
Unfortunately, IT COMES AT NIGHT is being advertised as a more direct horror film in the traditional sense. I can’t help but believe many viewers are going to be disappointed when they are expecting something completely different. Unlike recent horror masterpieces like IT FOLLOWS or THE BABADOOK, IT COMES AT NIGHT has a more misleading title. To its detriment, the title is relevant but not in the overt way one might think. IT COMES AT NIGHT is terrifying in a more thought-proving interesting way. By keeping the viewer in the dark as to what exactly is going on, the film maintains a tension that observes human response differently than what horror is commonly viewed as on the big screen. Mixing sanity with insanity, the details are deliberate and worth discussing, which makes the final act all the more horrifying. IT COMES AT NIGHT is a keen take on the horror genre that will probably not appeal to the masses but a welcome addition for those who desire a patient, methodic, and tangible thriller.