Director: Trey Edward Shults
Screenplay: Trey Edward Shults
Cinematography: Drew Daniels
Release Date: June 9, 2017
How far should you go to protect family? This is the central question facing the characters in “It Comes at Night.” Set in a desolate home in the middle of the woods, as a virus spreads throughout the world, a family struggles to survive. Sequestered away, they take little risks in being found, until one day, a man named Will and his young family shows up begging for help. What ensues is a series of events that forces both families to make choices in the interest of trust and safety. The tension and mistrust leads to chaos and ultimately death on both sides.
It is this tension that carries the film from beginning to end. Because of the bare bones setting and use of small space, atmosphere is heavily relied on, utilizing the “less is more” concept. This is what the film gets right. The writing is taut and clever, moving the story along with a sense of dread and uncertainty. The issue of who to trust and what to do once that trust is broken hangs in the air from frame one and persists until the bitter end. Because the film is set only in these woods, this tension exists in a vacuum, building continuously while the audience watches without an idea of outside events. What is causing this virus? Who really are these people?
There really aren’t many external factors that fuel the horror and suspense throughout the movie. All of what is scary and haunting about this film comes from the essential idea of fear. Fear manifests itself in the boarded windows and locked doors, the mistrust between families, a lost dog and nightmares. Some of the scariest moments come from the characters’ nightmares, especially Travis’s. It could be said that this fear is what the “it” in the title references; the virus does not necessarily arrive at night but Will does, as well as Travis’s terrifying dreams.
Shults’s eye and knack for showing the inner workings of family dynamics and the complexities of loyalty, have proved to be interesting, both in this film and in his debut “Krisha.” However, “It Comes at Night” only goes so far to enthrall and engage the viewers. While watching, I found my interest wavering at times and by the end, the tension was built up so much that the release was not quite enough. It seems that Shults wanted the film to be more than it actually proved to be, which ultimately made this film pretty unremarkable. I will not write this off as a “bad” film, because it had all the right elements- great cinematography and score, talented acting, ect.- but nothing to make me highly recommend it.
* 3/5 *