The horror genre has always been overlooked by critics. In the 1980s and 1990s, the preoccupation with entertaining teens took center stage instead of the craft and art that had made them so popular in the 1960s. The genre finally hit rock bottom in the 2000s seeming to never be touched ever again. Just when things weren’t looking good for horror, the genre went back to its roots and has now transcended beyond restrictions. It Comes At Night is the by-product of such experimentation. Its unconventional ways and its fearlessness to push boundaries would make Alfred Hitchcock proud. However, It Comes At Night also isn’t there to please its audience making it a daring, unpredictable and emotional ride.
After a virus wiped out most of humanity, a man (Joel Edgerton) is trying to protect his son (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) and wife (Carmen Ejogo). When he encounters another man (Christopher Abbott), he brings him and his family to his secluded home. Soon, their paranoia takes over and both families face deeply frightening moral dilemmas.
It Comes At Night is not a traditional horror movie by any means. If you’re looking for a straightforward zombie movie then you might be disappointed. The words “slow burn” have been thrown around a lot and were used to describe last year’s The Witch. Like The Witch, It Comes At Night takes its time telling a story. It gets a lot of mileage out of the wonderfully constructed tension and emotional impact. However, unlike The Witch, its story isn’t as complex and that’s completely fine.
Even with a barebone story, the Film uses it to full extent. The craftsmanship of the film is front and center more so than the story. The cinematography, the score, and the design all help elevate the tension and emotion put to screen. The gorgeous long takes emphasize the claustrophobic and secluded location. The ambiguity surrounding plot elements like the virus and technical aspects like the main character will be frustrating for casual movie-goers hoping to find what exactly comes at night.
What makes It Comes At Night such an unconventional and divisive movie is the omission of every single answer. All the questions you may have surrounding the trailer will not be answered. This will no doubt be frustrating for some, however, by not answering any questions, director Trey Schults is able to fully explore the concept of fear and paranoia. Actions made by the character will be shocking and disturbing at first glance. However, the idea that you cannot or do not know all the answers to a conflict but still faced with making a big decision is ultimately what makes It Comes At Night truly terrifying.
The core element of It Comes At Night is the unknown for the characters in the story and for the viewers. Making life or death decisions without all the information is difficult and our need to survive or to protect our loved ones triumphs everything else. It’s the reactive emotions that is at the heart of It Comes At Night. The film makes the extra effort to show you a plot element that will later be left unanswered. It may manipulate your feeling making you tense or sad while at the same time, it’s refusing to tell you anything to let you get absorbed by the paranoia and fear that the characters are feeling in the film. Whether you find this intelligent or frustrating, the film was able to produce a multidimensional reaction.
It Comes At Night not only reinvents what horror can be but it reinvents what a movie should be. As audience members we tend to create expectations going into movies and for the most part, we get what we expect. It Comes At Night refuses to give you what you expect. It’s efforts not to answer anything it puts to screen will frustrate you exactly like the characters’ actions will shock you. Schults’ chooses to focus on an important element in film, emotions, and he successfully explored every aspect of the concept. So, what more can you ask for?
It Comes At Night is released on June 9.