IT COMES AT NIGHT gets 7/10 The lurker at the threshold

Directed by Trey Edward Shults
Starring Joel Edgerton, Carmen Ejogo, Christopher Abbott


It Comes At Night is best entered into with as little knowledge of what the film is about as possible, and letting the experience wash over you. That said, it would be impossible to review it from that perspective, so be warned, spoilers will be discussed here. We’ll attempt to keep it to a minimum, and discuss in general terms. For a short non-spoiler review; this is a grim film, that manages to keep audiences in a constant state of tension. It may not be for everyone, but it is extremely well scripted, crafted, and acted.

For those that want a little more meat on those bones, read on, but consider yourselves warned.

Something has gone drastically wrong with the world, and society may have come to an end outside the walls of a family’s boarded up cabin in the woods. Yet within those walls, Paul (Joel Edgerton) keeps his small family safe, by taking every precautions they can. His son, Travis (Kelvin Harrison), is terrified by dreams of the horrors that lurk outside of the locked red door of their house, till one night he awakes to a noise coming from that door, and the realisation that there is someone outside.

More of the thriller genre than a horror, It Comes At Night, functions as a study in paranoia and tension. Although there is certainly the suggestion of a supernatural force acting on the small cabin, this may not be the case. We see these supernatural forces in the horrific dreams of Travis and a few unexplained events. However Okham’s razor suggests more mundane solutions to these, such as Travis is suffering a form of PTSD and these nightmares are just the inevitable occurrence of having the world he knew turned upside-down.

Whatever way you choose to take these occurrences, they add to the tension of the piece. That sensation that civilisation (perhaps even humanity itself) has fallen, is constantly re-enforced. From the in depth examination of a medieval painting evoking the horsemen of the apocalypse, to Paul’s own study of Roman history, we see the fragility of our own society. That such a social fabric is merely a few meals away from collapse, is one of the core themes to It Comes At Night, and something that makes for an uncomfortable revelation.

It is against this extreme background that the character dynamics of the film play out. Hence what would have once been unthinkable, might now be a valid option for survival, and arriving at that decision first might ensure your own safety. This leads to a sense of constant tension generated in the viewers, and whereas It Comes At Night is certainly well done, there is little done to release this tension either in terms of the acting, or the tone.

There is an ever present claustrophobia about the interior shots of the film. Everything is dark, enclosed, and cast in a brown palette. Outside we experience a sense of vulnerability, as the sound design team goes into overdrive to convey the vast openness of the woods, and what may be lurking there.

All of which creates a slow intense character piece, that never really lets you go. The result is disquieting, and although you can admire the committed performances (especially from Edgerton), combined with the uncompromising script, it could never be described as an enjoyable experience. Grim, but immaculately executed.