Hey folks, Harry here…
IT COMES AT NIGHT is not a very scary film. In fact, to me, it isn’t a horror film – at all to me. What it is, is a very well made & suspenseful Post-Apocalyptic film about the paranoia of a family trying to stay decent amidst the inherent paranoia of a Post-HOT ZONE style epidemic.
The title is about as wrong headed for this film as they come. The only thing that comes at night in this film – cums off screen as a character listens to their romantic relations. There is no Attackers at night. There is one attack that briefly occurs while on a drive, during the day. There is no “IT” for the film, lest the “IT” be the unknown disease.
I really feel critics telling you how SCARY this film is, are doing a grotesque disservice to a really solid film that belongs talked about for the merits that it actually has.
The film begins with a scene of an elderly man covered in popped pustules of some plague-like disease being handled by unseen people in gasmasks… quickly we learn that this is the grandfather of those people in gas masks that are rolling him up, putting him in a wheelbarrow and dumped into a dug grave, pillow to his head, shot, covered in gasoline and burned.
True – this is horrific, but it wasn’t played like a horror film. We weren’t watching it from the perspective of the infirmed. Trying to stop what the Gas Masked people were doing. And sure, it is horrifying to think this is how one would have to deal with a diseased loved one come the worst – and folks – the worst has indeed arrived here.
Though how bad it is in the world, we do not know. Communication has broke down, at least for these backwoods living folks. All we see of this Post-Apocalypse is essentially this one site. We will learn that animals can get sick. But this sickness does not ever lead to an attack upon them… at night.
Look, I kinda love IT COMES AT NIGHT. But this is a film that could easily be marketed with a statement like, “3 Years Ago A Plague Wiped Out 99% Of The Planet – This Is One Family’s Story of Survival” and that isn’t a spoiler. That’s just the situation the characters you’re going to begin meeting right at the beginning are going through. And those characters and performances are all uniformly fantastic.
The father of this group is Paul, played by Joel Edgerton, who just continues to do a lot of kick ass character work. Here, his father character is genuine sweet, but at all times governed by fear. We saw him kill Grandpa right at the beginning, but that’s the Atlas task, the inhuman price for his son and wife to survive. So, what do you think Edgerton’s Paul has in store for the person that comes upon his doorstep.
Now, Joel’s family lives in a house that has one entrance, a forward small plastic lined room. The idea is to deal with shit in that room. Stop any intruder in that room. It’s a decent plan. They’ve got a great resource for clean water. They don’t seem to be especially hurting, unless you count that Grandpa incident we began with. It is Edgerton’s Paul, his wife Sarah – played by Carmen Ejogo –who we most recently saw in Ridley Scott’s ALIEN COVENANT. Then there’s the son played by Kelvin Harrison Jr, who in my opinion steals the entire movie.
Kelvin’s Travis is a boy in puberty, who has lived with his Grandpa, Dad and Mom through something I don’t think any of us want to fathom. We’ve no idea of the nightmares they face. We don’t see someone die from this plague. They shoot and burn bodies. That’s a one two punch, why? DO they come back – is there a zombie situation? Not that we see, but we don’t know. The title of the film makes you think that something could happen at night, and perhaps the purpose of the title – to just fill you with dread – anticipating the horror.
Could the IT be the nightmares that come at night? Possibly, but the title still absolutely feels wrong to me. But just because his world consists of Mom and Dad, that boy must wonder if he’ll ever meet anyone of his own. He’s at that curious state.
Then one night there’s a break in, which Nick & Travis contain and eventually we’ll discover it’s Marnie’s on again off again boyfriend Christopher Abbott. But I have a confession, I half thought he was Jon Snow – but then my mind started thinking, no, that guy’s HBO, but not Jon Snow, who is that. Once I realized who he was, I became instantly sympathetic. Surviving a Plague apocalypse is one thing, but I saw him date Marnie on GIRLS and… damn, that’s hard. ANYWAY – he’s not seeing Marnie here, instead we’ll eventually learn his wife is Elvis Presley’s granddaughter Riley Keough – and they’ve a wee lad of their own – and the film becomes…
WHO CAN YOU TRUST?
Like I said earlier, we’ve no idea what any of these characters had to do to be on screen at this point post-Plague. We don’t know the extent of what the plague does? Will insects spread it if the bodies aren’t destroyed? This is that kind of low budget Post Apocalypse flick where at the end you have a great 30 minute to hour and a half post film conversation where you talk about… HOW TO SURVIVE! What you would have done different.
I don’t think I want to get into spoilers – but I kind of question everything of the last act. Not in a bad way, but I honestly can see multiple outcomes at the end of the film. One inky blinky black and one with that ray of sunshine that when I seriously think about the movie… in my heart of hearts… nothing lasts anymore.
The IT COMES AT NIGHT….the IT we never see and never ever comes at night. It’ll get whatever is left at this film, because I’m not clear on how things spread. Is it airbound, just touch, is it liquids into orifi? What are the rules? Not knowing is a definite level of suspense, but because the film sort of shows us the last act from all perspectives – and it is never subjectively terrifying. The actions are all justified in a survival fashion here.
SO – I love it as a Survival of Plague Post-Apocalypse sub-genre – and that’s a helluva film all on it’s own. Don’t expect monsters, sieges… The fear that creates the suspense is the paranoia of what may be. If you’ve ever read Edgar Allan Poe’s SHADOW: A PARABLE – there’s an aspect of that short story that I find relevant to this film.
The one thing I come away feeling about the film is that the title and the way it’s being sold is going to disappoint people expecting something overtly Scary. If the film is scary, it’s only the inherent fear of infection, but really – in this scenario – living to the end, is that something you really want?
Keep it cool,