I have never been more baffled at a movie-going experience than ‘It Comes at Night’; not that I hated the movie or anything, but as I was sitting in a near empty theater with my best friend, I was feeling a little discomfort while sitting through this independent horror film written and directed by Trey Edward Schults; it isn’t the discomfort you usually get by watching a horror film (despite the film’s creepiest, most unsettling moments happening at night, or in nightmare sequences), this feeling was a range of emotions from boredom, to frustration, to even confusion. I noticed it from my friend, who was sitting next to me, and the vibe made me more unsettled than this film tried to.
I tried ignoring the backlash ‘It Comes at Night’ got from audiences who went to see this movie. The film was marketed as a straight-up horror film with the intention of putting audiences at the edge of their seat; I didn’t even watch much marketing, but had too much of a desire to see this film on the big screen, the urge was so strong. Audiences were disappointed in the way the film left them. They said it “had too many questions that needed to be answered”, or “it wasn’t what they expected it to be”. But the critics really liked it for once again proving that horror movies don’t need to show you a monster, or having a jump scare pop out at you like a Jack-in-the-Box every few minutes, or even an over-reliance on blood and gore (which this film uses very little of). ‘It Follows’ and ‘The Babadook’ also had similar critical success for using more suspense than shock value, and relying on heavier themes, such as family and grief. It also seems that people complain about Hollywood not having original content, yet when a film such as this comes along, they ignore it, or turn them away as being “too weird”, “quirky”, “unusual”, or “uninteresting”. (I blame the little use of advertising in order to get some indie films the recognition they deserve, or stronger competition over the weekend.)
‘It Comes at Night’ is less of a horror film, and more of an artistic vision of suspense. Although, I cannot deny that it isn’t what you expect going in, which is a bad thing, because I wanted more to this film than just leaving me with said discomfort over the fact that barely anything happens in this film. I do still see greatness in its use of cinematography and actual suspense, and how it succeeds as an “art film”. Think Lars Von Trier’s ‘Antichrist’, but watered down for audiences to stomach. (I had a worse time watching that film than this one.)
There is not much of a story either, and it drags for the most part, while feeling suspenseful at times. Joel Edgerton plays a man who is trying to protect his loving wife (Carmen Ejogo) and 17-year-old son (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) from the outside world, because whatever is outside is making everyone sick. Things take a turn for the worse and paranoia seeps in when another family (Christopher Abbott, Riley Keough, and Griffin Robert Faulkner) from not too far away is welcomed into their home.
‘It Comes at Night’ is not a film for everyone. Most audiences will discuss what they just witnessed after the movie, like I did with my friend on the way home. I believe it is one of those films that may need to be watched again in order to fully appreciate its gift.