A Disappointing Horror That Never Fullfils Its Potential
Tense, claustrophobic but ultimately a little disappointing, It Comes At Night is a film that starts brightly but slowly fades as the film progresses. Its not that it lacks the atmosphere needed to bring its story to life, quite the opposite – the film is dripping in tension. The issue lies with its plot that never quite hits the right notes to make it a compelling watch or deliver any sort of real scares that justify it being a horror, making it particularly difficult to classify this as one.
It Comes At Night opens with a family in the middle of the woods. A strange virus has crippled the world and living in isolation, their boarded up house locked away from the world provides their only retreat from the outside world. When Paul (Joel Edgerton), his wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and his son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) stumble upon an intruder in their house, the film takes on a different dimension than the traditional horror role and plays on the paranoia from the situation that’s ravaged the world. The trouble with It Comes At Night, is we never get any answers to the burning questions raised throughout the film’s world and despite the slick technical craft and atmosphere of the film, it never feels like it scratches that horror itch leaving it a bit of a frustrating watch. Its made worse by numerous plot holes that are never addressed nor are there any sort of rules established for exactly how the virus is spread. Ordinarily, this would be easy to ignore given that horrors generally tend to overlook the details but it plays such a massive part in the plot that its hard to ignore.
The characters are what make this film a compelling watch though and Joel Edgerton is excellent as the hardened survivor who tries to keep his family safe. His inner turmoil is portrayed perfectly in a script that allows for a more methodically slow pace that builds on character rather than focusing on the horror itself. Ultimately, the term “post horror” that people have dubbed this film is the best description for this one. We never get any explanation for the world – no back story is given to the virus nor do we actually see any sort of horror elements beyond the dreams of the characters. It makes for a particularly frustrating watch as the sound design and lighting is generally very good.
Overall then, It Comes At Night starts brightly but ultimately ends up a bit of a disappointment. The acting, lighting and sound design are good throughout. There’s a growing tension and its here that the film comes into its own, playing on the paranoia built from a world that’s been crippled by events in the past. Unfortunately, we never get any sort of explanation to what’s going on in the world, we’re thrust into the middle of this post viral world and struggle to play catch up in a character driven story light on horror but big on plot inconsistencies. Its a shame too because there’s potential here for a decent horror but its squandered by a necessity to make a technically impressive film while ignoring the main ingredient – a compelling plot.