It would be fair to say that Trey Edward Shults’ second feature film It Comes At Night is a major slow burner. The movie’s not one that immediately throws a bunch of jump scares in your direction to entice you, but instead allows you to feel closer and more involved with the story as it progresses, building tension masterfully as it does so and never letting your eyes wander away from the screen. At any minute, something big could happen and, as a viewer, you don’t want to be the person who misses it.
Usually with a horror flick, I’d be begging for twists and turns with every passing minute, but this isn’t a film that does that. In fact, there aren’t many twists, if any, at all. The premise is a pretty simple one. A major virus has broken out, wiped out most of mankind and survivors are doing everything in their power to keep themselves and their loved ones safe. That’s what brings one man’s family to another’s, as they seek help, water, supplies and refuge.
Not only is tension built through the slow burn of the narrative, but with the intense sounds and score (by composer Brian McOmber) used throughout the film. It starts off with heavy breathing under gas masks, immediately forcing the viewer into a sense of claustrophobia and unwilling to ever let up as they’re confined along with the characters to the confines of their fortress. Whilst nods to the past come in the form of framed photographs scattered throughout the home, it’s very clear that the world now being lived is in one where rules must be strictly followed, or you could be the next member of the family facing disease and execution.
I would say that there isn’t nearly enough focus on the two central female characters in the piece. Their characters aren’t given enough time to develop with the film instead allowing the trio of men in the story to take centre-stage. Carmen Ejogo and Riley Keough are more than capable of giving jaw-dropping performances, as is shown slightly in the film’s final moments, but we wish they were given a little more to sink their teeth into.
Fortunate we are then to have Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott and Kelvin Harrison Jr. step into those three leading male roles. Edgerton and Abbott bring brilliance to their roles as two fathers fiercely protective of their families, whilst Harrison Jr. is the perfect paranoid teenager; relatable to the viewer and symbolic of all the motions you go through when watching the film.
Revealing too much about the direction the movie takes would take away from the overall viewing experience, but I would say that this is a movie that puts you through all of the motions. Curiosity leads to expectations in a variety of different forms, but the outcome is probably different to anything you would guess. In a world like the one that’s come to life in It Comes At Night, could anybody truly ever remain friends? Are any of the characters the enemy, or are they simply looking out for number one, along with those that they love?
There’s a rot in the film that continues to spread, not only in the very-present sickness that has consumed the majority of humanity, but the personalities of our leading characters. Whether it’s one that can be cauterised before it takes too strong of a hold however is the true overarching narrative.
It Comes At Night is available now on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Download.