Yes! It comes at night! What comes at night? you ask? Beats me. Still don’t know after seeing this.
Unless…what comes at night is fear, paranoia, savagery…and maybe Joel Edgerton.
It Comes At Night is sort of this year’s The Witch: A horror movie that isn’t really mean to shock, but meant to create a brooding atmosphere of foreboding against which our main characters futilely thrash. As such, it’s got a massive RT split 88/44 because horror movie audiences (and let’s face it: that’s a title designed to attract them) want the boogens and the jump scares and critics like to see other styles, and Joel Edgerton. (Joel was in 2015’s creepy The Gift as well as a bunch of other niche movies like Black Mass and Midnight Special.)
The premise of this film is that the Something Has Happened. When the movie opens, Paul (Edgerton) and his son Travis (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.) are going to bury wife Sarah’s father. We know it’s Sarah’s father because she’s played by Carmen Ejogo (Born to Be Blue, Away We Go!) and she’s black and he’s black and, refreshingly, none of this is ever mentioned or matters anywhere in the rest of the movie. But Travis is seriously haunted by this, and he’s having terrible nightmares.
Paul and Sarah discuss The Thing That Has Happened, which appears to be some really nasty, highly contagious plague. They’re way out in the woods somewhere, and relatively safe, I guess, although, hey, there was someone living with them who had this plague so…
The story heats up when someone breaks into their house, which is well defended, and Paul ends up shooting him (or braining him, I don’t recall which). It’s not fatal though, and it turns out that Will (Chris Abbot, James White, Martha Marcy May Marlene) is just a Regular Joe trying to keep his own family alive. After much debate, they decide to let him bring his family to their home.
And if you haven’t, at this point, guessed that this isn’t the kind of movie where The Boogen Comes To Get You but in fact the kind where The Real Enemy Is Man, I may as well revoke your popcorn privileges right now. It’s dark, and some might think it nihilistic, but The Boy and I both ended up liking it. I think it’s because the characters were likable and relatable. Harrison does a really fine job as the troubled teenager, but the cast is generally quite good, and this is an actor’s movie.
Also, it’s not actually nihilistic, however bleak, and if I were going to fault it, it might be for the paranoiac premise: but that’s the movie they set out to make, and they made it. Certainly not for the popcorn crowd (except The Boy and I because we’re always eating popcorn) but if you’re down for it, it’s well done.