It Comes At Night FILM REVIEW
IT COMES AT NIGHT
Director: Trey Edward Shults
Screenplay: Trey Edward Shults
Starring: Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo, Riley Keough, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Griffin Robert Faulkner, David Pendleton
Rated R for violence, disturbing images, and language
Running Time: 1 hours 37 minutes
***1/2 out of *****
Paul (Joel Edgerton) and his son, Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), discover they are not alone in IT COMES AT NIGHT.
Trey Edward Shults latest film, IT COMES AT NIGHT, could be loosely categorized as a horror film. Yes, there are some horror elements present in the film but in all honesty it's not a horror film. It is certainly not one cut from the same cloth as the stereotypical, supernatural, cookie-cutter for the masses horror films that seem to permeate multiplexes today. IT COMES AT NIGHT is more a psychological, drama/thriller about real people, real situations and real horror albeit set in a post-apocalyptic world, which too is not of the stereotypical THE WALKING DEAD variety. Leave all preconceived notions at the door and let the filmmaker envelope you in a dour tale of survival, paranoia and isolation.
One of the sad things about genre films is that many of the elements inherent to them have been so over wrought that they seem to have lost their effectiveness. It's rare to come across a film which utilizes familiar tropes and actually delivers. However, seemingly in response to this over saturation, filmmakers have found ways to buck convention and present familiar tales in ways not seen before. Jeff Nichols did it with MIDNIGHT SPECIAL. Henry Hobson had success with MAGGIE. Robert Eggers defied convention with THE WITCH. More on the nose, look at what M. Night Shyamalan did with UNBREAKABLE. What these filmmakers have accomplished is to retell the familiar through a smaller, intimate, grounded and humanistic lens. The end results were some engaging, thought-provoking and in some cases horrifying dramas wrapped up in a genre film. Director Shults accomplishes just that with this film.
The film features many strong performances. Joel Edgerton stars as Paul, a father doing what he can to protect his family from the unseen dangers of the outside world. If this were a stereotypical horror film Paul could have easily been earmarked as the villain of the film. His actions could be easily misconstrued but as this film is grounded you completely see where he's coming from and that he is a good man at heart. Carmen Ejogo and Kelvin Harrison Jr. also star as Sarah and Travis, Paul's wife and son. Ejogo effectively portrays a compassionate mother who totally understands the situation they are in and will do what's necessary. Harrison Jr. is very good as a teenage boy still trying to come to grips with the harsh reality of the world around him. Christopher Abbott and Riley Keough play Will and Kim, a couple who along with their son Andrew, played by Griffin Robert Faulkner, Paul welcomes into the safety of his home. All three are very good as another family also doing all they can to survive.
Shults also wrote the screenplay for the film and the film slowly builds the tension. He gradually develops this post-apocalyptic world without resorting to genre conventions. What scares do occur are more psychological on the part of the viewer as it is often what you don't or cannot see that really fuels the fear. He effectively puts the viewer in the character's shoes as you try sort out what they could be looking at. Many of the unsettling moments are limited to dreams which gives Shults license to really ratchet things up a bit as he plays with your mind. What that a dream or was that real? One of the most interesting thing Shults did, well hopefully it was intentional and not due to projection error, was using various aspect ratios within the film. Literally as the tension increased the frame became more and more letter boxed meaning the black matte lines at the top and bottom of the frame increased in size. It was as though the characters were being uncomfortably squeezed as the situation grows more and more dire.
It would be easy to classify Shults film as a horror film for the art house crowd. However, as previously stated this really isn't a horror film and it's not an art house film either. It's a pretty effective drama which unfolds within a genre film. It's compelling and engrossing and when the moments of real horror occur it drops in an unflinching manner. It's a genre film grounded in reality which in turn elevates it above the standard fare the genre is best known for. Just don't go in expecting RINGS or THE BYE-BYE MAN.
***** = Outstanding ****1/2 = Excellent **** = Very Good ***1/2 = Above Average
*** = Good **1/2 = Mediocre ** = Fair *1/2 = Poor * = Bad 1/2* = Abysmal