It Comes at Night Review
The titular 'it' takes on many forms and each has its own devastating effect
In a world besieged by an unknown and deadly illness Paul and his family do everything they can to survive.The apocalypse has featured in many, many films and the cause has always varied; from zombies, to accidental biological outbreaks to unsuspected alien invasions. But one recurring theme is survival. And surviving is what our central character Paul, played by Joel Edgerton, is focused on in It Comes At Night. Following an outbreak of some unknown illness Paul and his wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo), along with their teenage son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), have managed to create some form of normal existence away from the devastating effects of this epidemic. Tucked away and secluded in a large house, deep in the woods, Paul and his family live by routine and organisation in order to ensure their survival. A painting hung in the house alludes to the gravity of this mysterious illness and informs the audience that it perhaps isn’t an isolated incident.However, the illness isn’t necessarily the 'it' of the title - that presents itself in different ways throughout the film both from inside and outside the house. Fairly early on in the film Paul and Sarah decide to take in a family of three who are trying to survive just like them, but soon enough the sanctum that Paul has created starts to crumble. The new family headed up by Will (Christopher Abbott), his wife Kim (Riley Keough) and their young son Andrew (Griffin Robert Faulkner) are quick to take up the offer of somewhere safe to stay, and at first everything seems to be working fine; a quick run through of the ground rules and everyone is helping out and passing on techniques and tips for country living. However, always running just under the surface is a sense of paranoia and distrust which slowly but surely seeps its way to the surface.
Trey Edward Shults, who wrote and directed It Comes At Night, has created an effective tale of paranoia and claustrophobia. With scenes depicting the close-knit living arrangements reminiscent of Night Of The Living Dead and more recently10 Cloverfield Lane and an almost militant existence similar to that of 28 Days Later, It Comes At Night manages to deliver something altogether different and terrifying. The title suggests an outright horror film, but it’s a lot more realistic with a story that, as a viewer, you can visualise yourself in and relate to. Shults doesn’t bother with huge amounts of exposition or detail and follows closely to the less is more rule, which works extremely well and doesn’t bog the film down with unnecessary information or backstory.
You find yourself constantly studying the frame, looking for something that might pop out of the corner or wondering what is going on behind the closed doors. It is a very dark film which is a result of the house they live in being completely boarded up which only heightens the feeling of paranoia as characters walk down hallways with just the dim light of a torch or lantern. This also skews the geography of the house as you never really quite get a sense of the layout - and all of this works towards constructing the overall atmosphere of the film. The music by Brian McOmber is also worth mentioning as its subtlety works with the narrative in creating a tense and foreboding atmosphere as opposed to overwhelming the action and blatantly signposting certain points in the narrative as you get with some films.
It’s riddled with suspense and paranoia and manages to build tension at every turn
Egerton is great as Paul, delivering an understated and wholly believable performance. The determination Paul has for his and his family’s survival and, at times, uncompromising demeanour make his character hard not to relate to. The rest of the cast play off of Paul, with good performances from all. Harrison Jr.’s character Travis is almost the central character within the film as we see and feel events from his point of view a lot. His feeling of isolation and fear comes across clearly whilst his venture into adulthood is subtle and comes through the arrival of Will’s wife Kim. Even though there are only six main characters in the whole film, it still feels densely populated which is a result of the frequent use of close ups and the confined quarters they inhabit - and at no point is it ever a detriment to the overall narrative.
It Comes at Night is somewhat of a slow burner but never really reaches it’s climax - and I think that is the point and because of this it is much more realistic and believable. It doesn’t strive to answer every question and leaves things unanswered and left open which for some might be frustrating but I personally found it worked to the film's benefit. The tense and paranoid atmosphere comes through extremely well, steadily building the suspense and results in a film that isn’t afraid to be minimalistic and leave fear to be created internally.
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