A man tries to keep his family safe from the horrors that now plague the world they live in. He keeps a strict set of rules to abide by in order to achieve this, but one night someone breaks into their house begging for help. This encounter brings forth a series of events that shows the dark side of humanity.
First and foremost, I must warn you that this is not the movie A24 is marketing as. There’s no monster or villain lurking in the woods that they’re trying to keep out, or anything you may suspect it of being. Instead this movie is a “human horror” film. We don’t have a big evil villain. Instead it shows the villainy of humanity. When we first meet Paul (Joel Edgerton), along with his wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo), and their son Travis (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.), they’ve just lost a love one to the deadly virus that is corrupting the world. They live in a boarded up house and trust no one who may come around. When the stranger named Will (Christopher Abbott) arrives he begs them to take in him, his wife Kim (Riley Keough), and young son Andrew (Griffin Robert Faulkner) and they oblige. As the two families reside together, things seem civil and fine, but paranoia and fear soon sets in unleashing the monster that lives inside ourselves. This movie is so extremely well-written to make these characters come off as real, and it succeeds at it, the actors add to this as well. Being a virus film, the virus is merely a plot device, and while it’s not a pleasant sight, it refrains from being unnecessarily gory and becoming a body horror film. In true form we have these set of characters that are so extremely likable and relatable and you care for them all. Granted I didn’t much care for the teenage son because he was a little too weird, but that’s just me. But these characters are genuinely good people, and when fear and paranoia sets in, these darker sides of themselves come out. And the way Trey Edward Shults captures this so brilliantly. His previous film Krisha (which I will now put at the top of my watchlist), is said to also brilliantly capture and portray real people. If those are characters are anything like the ones in this film, I’m sure it’s great. But as mentioned, this is a human horror film, humans are the monsters of this movie, and the true villain of this film are fear and paranoia that creates them. I will say that I wish the paranoia and fear was a bit more intensified prior to the film’s climax, but it’s not a huge deal breaker. As for the climax, it goes into really dark and bleak territory. And it’s so hard to hate these characters for their actions because of the fact that you understand them and their motives. In turn it really makes you question humanity and what can set you over. All of this mentioned is where the real horror is at. There are sequences (and by sequences I mean an abundance of nightmares that the teen son has) that are used mostly for jump scares but that’s about it in terms of “gotcha” horror. This is purely psychological horror at its finest. As mentioned, the cast is great. Joel Edgerton can’t ever seem to do wrong. He plays Paul so well in how much he cares for his family, but also how much the fear and paranoia affects him, and how he’s balancing this line of what’s right and wrong and how that affects him. Christopher Abbott also turns in a strong performance as the father of the other family. Like Edgerton we see how protective and how much he cares about his family and will do anything to protect them. I wish Carmen Ejogo had a bit more to do than she had. She still does a fun job though. Riley Keough would have fallen the same fate if it wasn’t for one scene in the climax where she just sells her character in that moment. While there is much to love with this movie, it’s not without its issues. There are some plot holes/inconsistencies that are present, but they’re not gaping. We do get a decent feel of the development between the two families, but they could have done more, and while the fear and paranoia is present, these two presences could have been amped and built up more, especially right before the climax.
It Comes At Night won’t win over modern audiences who love in your face horror (though sadly they are treated to that with the dream sequences), or open-ended horror. But for those who REALLY appreciate horror, you will appreciate or love what Shults did with this movie and the statement he was trying to make, as well as the kind of horror he is bringing us that we don’t see a whole lot of. Add on the solid performances by the cast and you do have one of the best horror movies you’ll see this year.