REVIEW — “It Comes at Night”
You’re truly getting somewhere special as a studio when the sight of the A24 logo gets me as equally hyped as when I see a Lucasfilm or Marvel logo in a dark theater. In fact, A24 is legitimately my favorite studio in the industry today, as they crank out nothing but quality, experimental films on a consistent basis – on a wide release, nonetheless! It Comes at Night
is the studio’s latest film, and the sophomore effort from Krisha director Trey Edward Shults. The film follows Paul (Joel Edgerton), his wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo), and his son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) as they are isolated from a post-apocalyptic world in their secure home deep in the woods, away from what’s left of humanity. As a mysterious virus is lurking and dangers are seemingly imminent at every turn, Paul is reasonably strict and skeptical to everything that comes in the way of his family. This is put to the test when a family seeking refuge crosses paths with Paul and his family.
The best thing you can do when making a horror film is to make the “scary” backdrop for your film seem almost secondary to the characters and their situations. There is indeed a virus in this film, but it is hardly the scariest thing that the film showcases to the audience. The entire film is built upon the foundation of paranoia, and how that is a virus within itself. Paranoia turns to distrust, and distrust inside of a shared household makes the foundations weaker with every passing moment. Every single character here is fully realized in their traumas and aches for normalcy, but are seemingly reminded of the despair and lack of reason to live at nearly every corner in which they try to find meaning. The scariest aspect of this film is how it peaks into the lives of people who are stripped to their lowest of lows, and what happens when those people are pushed even lower when trying to protect what little they have left.
It’s an impressive feat when Shults’ can set a film almost entirely within the confines of one location, and even once you leave this location, you barely travel but a few miles away. A lot of this is amplified by the brilliant use of tension, an absolutely mesmerizing score, and gorgeous cinematography – but the performances here are really what elevate an already fantastic film to a near-masterpiece. Joel Edgerton gives a heartbreaking and completely riveting, human performance as a father who will stop at nothing in order to protect his family; his chemistry with Carmen Ejogo is also fantastic, as she gives an excellent performance herself. Kelvin Harrison Jr.’s subtle yet nuanced performance as a teenager dealing with hormones and grief during the end of the world is quietly one of the best aspects of this film. Will (Christopher Abbott) and Kim (Riley Keough) exhibit most of the humanity and purity of the film, as the refugee family who are seemingly looking for peace and comfort in a world that is anything but that – both of them give subtly perfected performances and completely draw you in with them and their situation.
It Comes at Night single-handedly is one of the most naturally fascinating exhibits of paranoia and fear I’ve seen showcased on film in quite sometime. You feel every tough decision that these characters make and you feel locked within the confines of this house and woods for 97 minutes of perfected psychological terror. The biggest compliment I can give Shults and crew is that this hardly ever feels like you’re watching a film, but as if you’re a fly on the wall of someones nightmares and greatest fears coming to life. Horror is at it’s most terrifying when you’re personal with the characters that it is all happening to, and It Comes at Night goes out of its way to make sure you’re more personal than you feel comfortable with. Shults solidifes his name alongside the most promising filmmakers working today, every actor gives a career-best performance here, and A24 once again proves to the world why independent filmmaking is still flourishing and is as important as ever. This is the kind of artistic expression that gets completely under your skin and consumes you from beginning to end. 4.5/5.