» Blog Archive It Comes at Night: Polarizing, Yet Effective Film Making -
Evan Conway Movies, News, Reviews

It Comes aT Night 3Before I even begin to discuss It Comes at Night, know this right away: it’s being marketed incorrectly and isn’t the horror movie you’re believing it to be. Erase the trailer from your mind, because I can only imagine disappointment if what they’re marketing this film as is what you’re expecting it to be. That or just read on and decide if this is actually a movie you want to see.

All set? Good.

It Comes at Night is barely a horror movie, and to that I can only mean that in a purely complementary manner. While the film crosses into the genre at points, it’s rooted in being a film about survival, the choices one makes in tough decisions, and the effects of conflict. While a big, gaping flaw seeps into other aspects of the film, it’s a well acted, haunting atmospheric, and crafts its own aesthetic, all the while echoing influences from other films without relying on them entirely.

The film centers around a family who, in the world after a plague has run rampant, is doing their best to survive in the woods. A man breaks into their house one night, in which they find out that he has a family that he wishes to provide food for. After deciding to join families and help one another survive do things slowly start to go wrong. At 91 minutes including credits, It Comes at Night approaches things in a semi-slow burn way, with chilling imagery and the nail-biting final act coming gradually without wasting too much time in between. It’s a quick ordeal, but given the fact that the film is still lingering in my mind says enough.

it cums at nightI must stress, I interchange the words “movie” and “film” quite frequently. This time, however, it must be emphasized that It Comes at Night is a film and has artistic merit to it. The film’s editing is smooth, the lighting is appropriately vacuous, and the soundtrack (As expected from a film distributed by A24) is incredibly effective in being the icing on the cake to sell this empty and scarred world the cast lives in. On a technical standpoint, while not doing anything new, it’s artistically stylish and near-perfect in execution.

The film, for the world it exists and what it’s trying to accomplish, exists under a thick veil of ambiguity. One will wonder how the world came to be like this and how the world beyond the main setting is faring. You get small glimpses through small exchanges between characters, but never does it go beyond that. This was a smart decision on the writing and direction of the film, as it keeps to focused on the character-driven nature the story takes. The ambiguity even goes so far to even make the viewer question if there’s something out there beyond the typical survivors that aim to steal their supplies. Something much like infected humans get teased on more than one occasion, with one character remarking the dog might have seen something out in the woods. Other nightmarish imagery comes to the screen, particularly when one character sleeps, suggesting that the characters may have seen something in their experiences.  

That said, the ambiguity also ends up being the film’s biggest weakness. The ambiguity doesn’t stop at the setting and lore, but falls into the characters, as well. You get even less information on the characters besides personality traits and relationships with one another, with the most being one is a former history teacher and the other a mechanic. In a film where they expect you to care for the characters, especially into the film’s third act where It Comes At Nightthings start to come to a close, they’re asking you to do so based on the situation alone, essentially. There’s no bad acting to be had here, so the actors aren’t to blame, so the writing seems faulted for this. Given the artistic nature of the film, it would seem appropriate to make some time for characters to be developed and make the film’s climax that much more impacting.

This ambiguity being crammed into the film’s short run time causes brings up a plot thread or two that essentially goes nowhere. Instead of featuring a virtually useless plot thread in the story, it could have been used to develop the characters more beyond a simple “I don’t like cake” remark among awkward sexual tension. It’s an odd choice and could have ultimately been handled better, yet never does so in an aggressive manner to derail the film from moving forward. If anything, it also shows that the two families in the house are growing closer with one another.

it comes at nightttAt the end of the day, It Comes at Night isn’t the film the trailers made it out to be, and perhaps that’s a good thing. It sticks out by being a story of survival and family, but a dark one at that and one you probably shouldn’t watch with your family. The ambiguity gets out of hand and the characterization is a missed opportunity, but the atmosphere and technical aspects of the movie, coupled with good performances all around, and occasional bone-chilling imagery will no doubt make the film one that sticks around in your mind after the credits roll, for better or worse.

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