Fear and Lurking: Our Review of ‘It Comes At Night’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - June 09, 2017
Fear and Lurking: Our Review of ‘It Comes At Night’

Paranoia, I suppose. Fear, dread, uncertainty, too – those are among the things that arrive as darkness falls, but all those anxieties seems to be ever-present, daylight or otherwise, in It Comes At Night. An effective, chilling psychological horror, this post-apocalyptic family-focused tale opts for ambiance over answers, eeriness over explanations.

Joel Edgerton is Paul, the exceedingly protective and ultimately decisive patriarch of a family holed up in a cabin in the woods. A disease has devastated the immediate population and maybe the entire world – but our focus is the expansive, labyrinthine forest where Paul, his wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and his teenage son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) are confined. Their large home is boarded up, and a lone red door, among the creepiest cinematic doors, allows entry in and out. They’ve rations, lanterns, and a faithful dog, and no one leaves the house at night.

We join their story as they are culling numbers: an elderly family member has fallen ill, and swift and violent precautions are taken to protect the living. The unease doesn’t end though with this threat removal. Travis has trouble sleeping, and sometimes hallucinates (or not), and it doesn’t take long for another problem to emerge. Noises are heard in the house, and an intruder is stopped.

Paranoia and uncertainty only continue to rise and rise, endlessly and without a limit. Paul questions the intruder, ties him up, interrogates him further, and finally agrees to follow this stranger to his purported wife and young son that he is claiming to look after. An uneasy alliance could be made for the greater good of surviving. Travis would enjoy more company as he is shy and isolated – Paul would enjoy the farm animals the couple says they have.

Written and directed by Trey Edward Shults, It Comes at Night never allows for a moment’s pause – even when there exists apparent peace and camaraderie within the abode, you are sure something is lurking outside waiting to get in. And in one word, one slight action, fear can escalate exponentially in the cabin, and it feels just like being lost alone in the darkness among the trees.

The film’s commitment to ambiguity and open-ended encounters may be its only drawback, but it’s shrewd focus and unwillingness to compromise its intentions make it a worthy, unnerving horror. Which is not to suggest that nothing happens. There is sheer terror, tense confrontations, and explosions of the worst of human emotion and survival instincts. Or maybe, it’s what is required to survive.

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