It Comes at Night

Posted June 10, 2017 by in

Quick Stats

Genre: psychological horror
Director: Director: Trey Edward Shults
MPAA Rating: R
Actors: Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo
Length: 1 hour 31 minutes
Release Date: 6-9-2017
Studio: Animal Kingdom, A24
What We Thought

More than just a scary zombie movie sans zombies. It’s about how such a world infects not just the body, but the mind.

by Daniel Hodgson
Full Article
We carry our daily lives into our dreams.  The people we meet and the stories we see on TV become players and stories on the stage of the unconscious mind, where we watch dramas unfold like movies meant only for each ourselves, for our own personal delight or horror.  But how much of our dreams and nightmares do we bring to our waking lives?  It Comes at Night is a psychological horror film about that very cycle, how our fears and desires in reality inform our dreams and vice versa.
     The film resembles a drama like The Walking Dead, taking place in a cabin in the deep woods, where a family must end the life of their grandfather (David Pendleton) who became ill.  So begins a story about how a teenager copes with loss.  He is Travis, deftly portrayed by Kelvin Harrison Jr., who brings vulnerability to a role upon which the entire film hinges.  Joel Edgerton plays his father Paul, who guards his son and his wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) against a post-epidemic world, in which they must wear gloves and gas masks outside the home to prevent infection, and burn the body of the deceased grandfather less out of ritual than caution.
     Soon after death in the family, Travis hears a disturbance in the house in the dead of night.  He awakens his father, who subdues the intruder.  His name is Will (Christopher Abbot), a man only trying to look out for his own family.  Or so he says.  He seems to be telling the truth, or mostly the truth, but a shadow of doubt is all it takes, even in a civilized world.
     Whether or not Will and his wife Kim (Riley Keough) and son Andrew (Griffin Robert Faulkner) can be trusted is at the center of the drama.  In contrast to The Walking Dead, It Comes at Night is not so much about the conflict between morality vs pragmatism in how Paul and his family deal with their guests, but about how Travis deals with loved ones leaving this world and strangers entering into it.  Travis doesn’t say much, but we come to understand him through dream sequences, which are always horrific nightmares.  He carries his dream-state apprehension into his relationships with those around him, especially with Sarah, with whom there is mutual sexual tension.  The film often dissolves between shots, surrealistically blurring together even waking moments.
     It Comes at Night does not explain much, such as what exactly threatens them in the woods, what the nature of the pandemic is, or how certain events come to pass, which are crucial to the plot yet unresolved.  It is a story which lacks exposition, and often is all the better for it.  What we don’t know or understand fills us with anxiety, and we don’t know any more or less Paul what does.
     The film is written and directed by Trey Edwards Shultz, who previously helmed Krisha, a dramedy which looked like a shock-horror film.  Returning cinematagrapher Drew Daniels can go full swing with It Comes at Night, frequently lighting scenes with only a lamp carried by Harrison.  We see no more and no less he does.
     It’s tempting to call the film a scary zombie movie without any zombies in it, but it’s more than that.  It’s about how that world infects not just the body, but the mind, filling it with mistrust.  No one can survive in such a place.  4.5 out of 5 stars.

About the Author

Daniel Hodgson

Daniel has a degree in film from the University of Texas at Austin, and writes about himself in the third-person, because that's the fashion.


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