Almost a week after seeing Trey Edward Shults’ It Comes at Night, it’s hard for me to shake the fact that it feels almost like a harbinger. With these dark times of violence, uncertainty, and fear, its only appropriate for our art to imitate those same sentiments. Heck, even superhero movies like Logan are taking risks with bleak, harrowing stories.
With a small cast—headlined by the always-remarkable Joel Edgerton—It Comes at Night is almost as barebones as it gets. The head of a family living in the forest during a catastrophic epidemic, Edgerton’s Paul is understandably paranoid and ruthless when it comes to protecting his family. Nobody is allowed out at night, there is only one door, and almost everyone is a threat. So when Will (Christopher Abbott) shows up at their door in the dead of night, it’s not hard to guess how Paul responds.
While beautifully shot and acted, it feels as though Shults is simply trying too hard to mislead the audience. The start of the film sees Paul executing his wife Sarah’s (Carmen Ejogo) father for having the illness. His son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) starts having nightmares about being sick and there being something sinister creeping out in the woods, naturally leading one to believe something much more dangerous is at play. Shults does a good job at keeping you guessing, but it comes with the caveat of his own meddling. Some twists feel forced, and other paths he sets you up to walk down simply don’t go anywhere.
Maybe that’s the point; one can easily see what Shults is trying to do. Fear can be extremely powerful in motivating people to do some heinous acts, which leads the film to have one of the most heart-wrenching scenes in years. Much like last year’s The Witch, it is absolutely hopeless at times with not even a hint of a silver lining.
As scary as it is to say—this is a film of our times and it won’t be the last.