2017 in Cinema:
It Comes at Night, 2017
Directed by: Trey Edward Shults
Starring: Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Riley Keough
Perhaps one of the most controversial films this year, It Comes at Night has received largely divided opinions between those who feel it’s brilliant and those who side with it being terrible. Rotten Tomatoes has a critical rating of 88% with an audience rating of just 43%, showing this division, and having watched the film it’s easy to see where each side comes from.
It Comes at Night is a psychological thriller set in a post-apocalyptic-style world which has been attacked by an unknown virus. We meet Paul (Edgerton), his wife Sarah (Ejogo) and their son Travis (Harrison Jr.) as they are surviving in their home in the woods, completely separated from the outside world. And that is important as our journey follows their journey; we know what they know, we find out what they find out. We aren’t given context about the disease (its beginnings or its affects) only that it’s highly contagious and deadly. They soon welcome fellow survivors Will (Abbott), his wife Kim (Keough) and their son Andrew (Griffin Robert Faulkner) into their home and the group become friendly with one another, and all follow the strict rules set about by Paul.
Be warned: minor spoilers ahead.
It Comes at Night is predominantly about fear. Paul’s initial fear of Will and his family, his fear of the night (their number one rule is they don’t go out at night), his fear of the disease and his fear of the outside world (all, bar one, doors and windows are sealed up). We are only given information he has, and this creates a brilliant air of suspense throughout the film. Paul is constantly weary of Will and his family, taking every single precaution possible (including tying Will up against a tree for a whole day to see if he’s infected) and throughout the film, even when all seems fine, we see Paul give cautious looks over at them. This allies to us as we’re constantly wondering if there’s something wrong. That is aided by our sheer lack of knowledge about the virus’ creation, infection and symptoms. Shults doesn’t create a picture of the populated world or give us crumbs of what’s going on, and it’s that which helps the suspense of this film: we simply do not know.
Throughout the film we also see several dream sequences from Travis, and in an interesting piece of editing the screen size alters slightly; shortening down for every dream before returning to its original size when Travis awakes. An interesting technique to use, especially with the final sequence being the shortest size of the film.
It Comes at Night is brilliantly acted, beautifully shot and well paced, and keeping answers and knowledge away just creates intrigue throughout. However, its ending is a little underwhelming. The sheer lack of information (before, during and afterwards) has helped create the backlash towards it, as well as the title being misleading. It sets up so many things but doesn’t answer them (carrying on with the fact we only find out what Paul finds out), and is a very rare film which treads the fine line between being amazing and terrible.
Plot: * *
Acting: * * * *
Writing: * * *
Presentation: * * * * *
Overall Rating: * * * ½