article by Connor Behrens for ArtsEarth
“It Comes at Night” is a 2017 American psychological horror film written and directed by Trey Edward Shults and features Joel Edgerton.
Seemingly safe within a secluded home as a bizarre threat threatens the planet, the questionable household direction founded by a man with his family is put to the crucial test when a young group seeking shelter arrives. Even amid the best purposes of both parties, fear and suspicion swell over as the unspeakable terrors outside sneak closer, emerging something unknown and horrific within him as he discovers that protecting his family comes at an unavoidable cost; his soul.
In a current climate where films are part of a shared universe or overwrought with theatrics, “It Comes at Night” is a refreshingly simple thriller. Shults and his entire cast realize that sometimes less is more. In this case, focusing on the paranoia and fear of the unknown is what propels and drives this film to its brutal ending.
What’s on the other side of that red door becomes a central question for the audience and it’s a prime example why this film succeeds. Instead of a creepy monster or a ridiculous amount of blood and guts, “It Comes at Night” chooses to focus on thrills and the idea of human nature and how desperate that nature can become.
The film’s plot is so bare and toned down that you are absolutely required to focus on the main characters and their struggles as they try to survive and figure out what’s happening across the world. The audience never finds out what exactly this virus is or where it originates. But there’s never any real need for the film to explain the backstory. It would be pointless exposition. The film’s intent is not to scare you with a virus; it wants to make you see just how scary humans can be.
Joel Edgerton succeeds in that department. Promising to take care of his family to a fault, Edgerton plays a man deep in desperation and trying his hardest to regain any sense of control in his life. His relationship with his wife and son are mostly cold, and he is a survivalist before he is a husband or father. This creates some particularly chilling scenes when Edgerton’s character has to decide just how far he will go to protect his loved ones.
When the film ends, a mixture of melancholy and brutality has been sprawled across the screen. Edgerton sells this, but it’s also due to the tight editing and display of scenery. It could have been quite easy for Shults’ film to be mundane and boring, but the director makes sure his cast strikes a charge through each scene.
Overall, while it may be too much of a slow burn for some audiences, “It Comes at Night” is a welcome chance of pace this month. Where films like “The Mummy” are more focused on setting up a shared universe than delivering good story and chills, “It Comes at Night” reminds us of thrillers and horror premises done right.