A few films have been as controversial as It Comes at Night recently.
In the case of Trey Edward Shults’s latest film, though, all the controversy lies in the polarised reactions the movie got upon its release. Something reminiscent of what happened with The Witch (2016), loved by critics and niche audiences; panned and literally hated by the majority of moviegoers.
Contrarily to my usual reviewing pattern, I will give my opinion on the film before even talking about it, with a little premise nonetheless.
If you are in for 90 minutes of challenging, demanding, unconventional plot and execution, check It Comes at Night out. It’s a very good movie which you can’t help but respect for its attempt to an original concept and an execution filled with intriguing imagery and symbolism.
However, if you like more conventional horror flicks, with tons of scares along the way, maybe some gore and ounces of frightening creatures, stay away from It Comes at Night. You guys would hate it and rant about it to your friends, discouraging them from checking out a movie that might actually be their cup of tea and, therefore, forcing a viewpoint on a film that has to be seen with the right state of mind.
If you belong to the first group, you can proceed with this blog post that might tickle your curiosity; otherwise, read it if you want and I’ll try to explain why I think It Comes at Night is a good (and important) film.
I believe the best way to experience Shults’s flick is going in it completely blind. The lesser you now, the better.
Which is why I won’t describe the plot and I’d suggest you to avoid trailers and any web page telling you what this movie is about.
It’s just important for you to know that we follow 6 main characters (two families, each one composed by husband, wife and son) who are apparently locked up in a cabin in the woods where they believe they can’t go out at night but only in daytime with a good dose of precautions.
Without a single standout protagonist, the characters in this movie are very much able to carry the plot along and create intriguing relationships between them.
The casting choices are on spot, with Joel Edgerton leading the way in one of the best performances of his career (which is saying something…).
The cinematography is stunning and seems a character by itself, since through it the director is able to convey emotions and tension.
In fact, It Comes at Night is a very suspenseful flick, which plays with your expectations and cleverly reverts the horror clichés we are used to.
Yet, as I previously mentioned, this film has an ongoing symbolism which appears, for example, when a red door is shown on screen representing the passage between life and death.
However, to me the movie never looks too artsy or pretentious. The characters, for example, are extremely realistic as well as their interaction: crude and gritty at its core.
The true horror this mystery movie shows, is the one that lies within every human being when the situation gets desperate: sexual desire, uncertainty, lack of trust in others, family, love… all these feelings are implicitly explored in It Comes at Night.
The ending, which obviously I’m not going to give away, is not fully fledged but matches the rest of the movie. Most viewers will hate it, I personally think it’s okay but could have been better.
Yet, in the movie clearly emerges a lack of balance between dream sequences and real events. The horror scenes belong only to the dream sequences, which makes them less impactful and slightly frustrating.
I get their purpose within the dreams, but I still think the movie would have benefited from some more unsettling imagery with the characters awake.
Besides, the other issue I have with the film revolves around the director’s intentions. Specifically, I believe Shults pushed it too hard when he claimed: “a lot of questions are left unanswered intentionally, for a reason and I hope it sticks with you. I hope it doesn’t frustrate”. Although this lack of explanation makes for an anxiety-inducing, on the other hand, it gives the annoying impression of faulty creative flair.
In conclusion, It Comes at Night is not a film for everyone. Very susceptible to generate frustration and confusion in certain viewers, it is mandatory to go into this movie with the correct approach and a deep interest in cinema. In other words, if you prefer disposable horror flicks, please avoid It Comes at Night and go watch Annabelle: Creation. To be clear, I don’t mean this in a demeaning way, I’m serious when I warn you about this film. You’ve been warned. Cheers!