IT COMES AT NIGHT
Written and Directed by Trey Edward Shults
Music by Brian McOmber
Cinematography by Drew Daniels
Film Editing by Matthew Hannam and Trey Edward Shults
Casting By Avy Kaufman
Random Crew Member: Shopper……….Storm Garner
Filmed on location in New York, U.S.A.
Far too many times we walk into a theatre, expecting an excellent movie experience, led on by trailers and early reviews and get burned. On rare occasions though, there are movies that are telegraphed as being so dreadful that only, say, twelve people are there for the premiere showing. One can only take so many zombie movies, after all. The thumbnails had all the earmarks of the undead. Let us hear a hallelujah for a film that so surpasses its early advertising that you end up leaning forwards in your seat, forgetting the Victorian period-piece you just watched thinking it would be the movie of the week. Hey. When you’re wrong, just admit it. Wrong was I.
Whatever the film appeared to be, forget that. It Comes At Night is not what you’re expecting. It’s much better.
Paul (Edgerton) keeps his family locked away in a large house in the woods, miles away from whatever civilisation is now and wherever any other people may be. He is determined to keep his family, wife Sarah (Ejogo) and son Travis (Harrison), safe from the weapon or pandemic, perhaps, that has devastated the world. House boarded up, gas masks at the ready, and more guns than any seven people could use at one time. Even Magnificent Ones. They live a restrictive life: don’t go outside unarmed, always keep the doors looked, and never go outside after dark. It’s working so far, if you call that a life?
This fortress of solitude may be about to crack as a desperate family comes to live with them. Paul is suspicious, unable to accept that Will (Abbott), Kim (Keough), and tiny Andrew (Faulkner) are only there for safety, shelter, food, and, possibly, company.
The story is seen through the eyes of Travis, the most sensitive and lonely of the group. After all, all of the adults have partners and, at seventeen, he is worried from where his woman could possibly come after this decimation. I worried for him, also. Perhaps he is also worried about some of the lapses of logic that pop up in the plot. No. It’s the mate thing.
In a setting of peaceful forest as far as the eye can see Shults has created an atmosphere of claustrophobia and menace. What is out there, just beyond what the eye can see and what does it want? Even among widespread lodge pole pines, the trees seem to shift and close in on the group no matter how innocent the activity or how they try to forget the horror for a few moments.
Edgerton turns in his usual rock-solid performance and Riley Keough shows the same delicate, unadorned beauty and impressive range as in Mad Max: Fury Road. Kelvin Harrison Jr. is a welcome surprise as the withdrawn, hesitant teenage son, a quivering gazelle trying to decide whether to bolt at the first opportunity.
Because the plague? abomination? war? that razed the population is unseen it remains a dark shadow threatening to overtake the tiny enclave at any moment. The actual threat and the tension in the film is distrust and paranoia and fear-fueled rage the characters may not even be aware is boiling inside them. As the plot unfolds the audience is faced with questions we’ve asked each other in “if you were on a desert island,” “if you were in Hunger Games,” “fuck marry kill”, but this is amped up a few thousand times. What would we do to survive and how far can we go and still live with ourselves? If it comes to that, could we see your own family as a threat? Who says we are the one who should survive? How do we knew we are right?
Maybe this is the moment for altruism. If it’s you or them, you’d better hope you’re there with a Canadian philanthropist.