Film Review: IT COMES AT NIGHT (USA 2017)

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it comes at night.jpgSecure within a desolate home as an unnatural threat terrorizes the world, a man has established a tenuous domestic order with his wife and son, but this will soon be put to test when a desperate young family arrives seeking refuge.

Director: Trey Edward Shults
Writer: Trey Edward Shults (screenplay)
Stars: Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo

Review by Gilbert Seah
 
IT COMES AT NIGHT begins with a taut medical examination of an older man later revealed to be Bud (David Pendleton) lying on a made-shift stretcher infested with lesions and boils. “Can you hear me?” is the question asked. After the examination, the patient is carted off, to the woods outside a boarded up shack where he is crudely wrapped up and burnt with gasoline.

It has all been done before. Despite writer/director Shults’s genuine effort of differentiating his film from the end of the world plaque infested survival horror flick, one cannot help but feel a certain similarity of events from start to end. Never mind the carefully planned shocks, the effective use of enclosed space (cinematography by Drew Daniels) and darkness and never mind the effective use of sound to scare the audience. It does not help that the script has no plot twists or has the addition of more human interaction.

The story first appears to be told from the point of view of the first family’s 17-year old teen son, Travis (Kevin Harrison Jr.) But the view shifts later on the film as Travis has less screen presence. The only survives on display appear to be his family. Order is kept in the home by his father, Paul (Joel Edgerton who also co-produced the film). His mother, Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) is present and also an assortment of farm animals and dog, who are allowed in the house, apparently to prevent them from catching some deadly virus. When they venture outside, they wear gas masks. It is a test of survival. When they hear a noise from outside, Tom carefully opens the door to find another man, (Christopher Abbott) looking to find his family, in this case his wife, Kim (Riley Keough) and baby some food.

Shults does not make any effort or even need to explain his film. After the first scene (described above), the audience can correctly deduce that the apocalyptic film is in the near future. A plaque has deserted most of civilization. The family on display is surviving at all costs. As expected there are intruders from the outside. The two families ave something to share or trade. But mistrust exists and survival takes place with sacrifice of their human souls.

It is easier to make a faultless minimalist horror film like this one that a complex film with flaws. IT COMES BY NIGHT falls into the first category.
It does not help that the film does not have a happy Hollywood ending or a closed one at that. Despite all the film’s plusses, IT COMES AT NIGHT does not succeed at all as an original or absorbing drama or horror film.

Schultz, whose first feature KRISHA secured Shults some fame, which resulted in a two-picture deal with A24 films, IT COMES AT NIGHT being the first one. The film had its premiere in April this year at the The Overlook Film Festival. The film has so far, garnered favourable reviews.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6YOYHCBQn9g

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