Horror comes in many shapes and sizes: sometimes cheap jump scares, honest thrills and maybe some gore in your face. With director Trey Edward Shults’ It Comes at Night, there’s a genuine uneasiness coupled with thrills that will satisfy any horror advocate’s tastes. And, as the poster suggests, there’s mystery afoot.
Shults opens this film on a very serious note. The viewer understands the films isn’t afraid to showcase the harsh reality of death this desolate world where our family of three finds themselves. Paul (Joel Edgerton) with his wife, Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and son, Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) have a home deep in the woods where a sort-of sickness is killing people. In the interest of not spoiling anything, all three wear masks and gloves, which we discover need to be worn when dealing with others and outdoor elements.
The opening sequence does well to pose an ominous tone — which is prevalent throughout the entire film — without saying much. And I mean literally without much dialogue.
After even seeing an It Comes at Night poster, we understand there’s some horror outside — beyond the red door. It doesn’t take long for the film to reveal there’s a sickness that’s taken over … the nation? The east coast? Who knows? This film does well to not answer these questions, however, and doesn’t concern itself with horror clichés.
This is an entry into horror that also isn’t full of cheap thrills, luckily, and relies on being atmospheric. You become immersed into the situation our characters find themselves in, asking moral questions along the way. Cinematographer Drew Daniels works well with Shults to focus on long, drawn-out establishing shots that sometimes make you antsy. Whether you’re forced to focus on a long hallway that eventually leads to the red door that’s being pounded upon by someone from the outside, or even those intimate moments where silence is the best method of conversation among our characters, yet the shot just seems to linger for an extra 15 seconds so we’re able to see sweat trickle from foreheads and tears stream down cheeks.
I anticipated Joel Edgerton to be the powerhouse in this film and was happily surprised to see Kelvin Harrison Jr steal the show. His representation of Travis, a teen wrapped in death and misery during a time where there seems to be nothing left of the world, sent chills down my arms. Harrison Jr helps you realize there’s more to be desired than what goes on outside — rather, you may just find the horror lying within.
Now, that’s not to say Edgerton didn’t do a heck of a job portraying a paranoid father who would do anything to protect his family. His performance will be among the best of 2017. Edgerton makes you ask, “Why would you do that,” and about halfway through the film, you begin to throw away hindsight and realize, “Why wouldn’t he do that?” His performance sticks with you well after the film and fits with the psychological horror themes present throughout.
There’s a great deal of emotion that separates It Comes at Night from being a typical horror film. There’s a heaviness in your heart during quiet moments with Travis and his grandfather’s dog, Stanley. There are challenging moments where the film poses humanitarian questions. It’s all equal parts effective and unsettling.
If you enjoyed The Witch, you’ll find happiness in knowing the pacing is very similar. There’s no rushing through Shults’ screenplay — you’re satisfied by the end of this ride. I think A24 has yet another winner with an unconventional horror gem in It Comes at Night and, yeah, it’ll shake your bones.
I enjoyed a press screening of ‘It Comes at Night’ thanks to Allied Integrated Marketing and A24. ❤
‘It Comes at Night’ runs one hour and 37 minutes, is rated R and releases in North America on June 9, 2017.