Director: Trey Edward Shults
Starring: Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo, Kelvin Harrison Jr, Riley Keough
Run Time: 91 mins
‘It Comes At Night’ is the new film by rising star Trey Edward Shults who helmed 2015’s critically acclaimed ‘Krisha’. I must admit I hadn’t heard of this individual before until I saw the strong reviews his latest feature has received, a psychological horror-cum-thriller. The other draw to this film was the fact that Joel Edgerton was starring in it who is in my opinion, a multi-talented in many regards from acting to directing and did a sterling job of 2015’s ‘The Gift’, my second favourite film that year. Edgerton executive produces this feature. ‘It Comes At Night’ tells the story of a post-apocalyptic world after a virus has wiped out a lot of humanity and we follow a family played by Joel Edgerton as the father, Carmen Ejogo as the mother and Kelvin Harrison Jr as the son. We follow their life and the strange goings-on that they encounter until they one day stumble upon an individual who is the father of another family that are desperately looking for sanctuary. It all sounds very intriguing but with a mixed audience reception, is this purely a film for the critics?
I found a lot to like in Trey Edward Shults’ ‘It Comes At Night’ and Shults for much of the film, sustains a very intense, depressing, dour and volatile atmosphere. The performances across the board are great, with the standout being Joel Edgerton. It leaves a lot of plot points to audience imagination (possibly too much) but I was gripped pretty much throughout. I can see why the audience reception has been decidedly mixed – this film has been marketed very differently to the film that we actually get and it’s a very similar situation to what happened with last year’s ‘The Witch’ which was similarly marketed as an out-and-out horror film but ended up being more of an atmospheric burn. The film is complimented by an equally moody score and cinematogaphy. It’s not without fault though – it doesn’t quite manage to sustain its energy throughout its entire run time and without spoilers, I thought Shults left a little too much narrative to audience interpretation.
‘It Comes At Night’ is anchored by strong and genuine performances – Joel Edgerton knocks it out of the park as the overly protective father who will do anything to keep his family from harm’s way. There are many sequences where Edgerton faces moral challenges and I could really put myself in his character’s shoes. The rest of the cast are also strong and I hope this film puts a number of these cast members onto the map. The score by Brian McOmber is fantastic and endlessly atmospheric and really compliments the mood Shults tries to achieve with this film. The cinematography by Drew Daniels is equally effective and Daniels revels in what is shown to the audience and what is not constantly questioning what has been portrayed on-screen. There are a few genuinely shocking images that really contribute to the film’s uncomfortable tone.
And Shults generally does a great job at this and there were many moments where I felt genuinely uncomfortable and on-edge – I felt as if I needed to take a shower after this film due to its contagious atmosphere. The film left me thinking for a whie after it had finished over what I had just watched and as I tried to piece the plot together. This is also the film’s downfall however as well. Dream sequences are plentiful in this film and I think Shults overdoes it a bit to the point of the plot being a little incoherent which is what he appears to go for but it overwhelms the mystery a little. In a couple of interviews, Shults purposely states that he wanted to leave the ending amiguous but I feel the film could have been a little more effective if he had revealed a couple of plot points in order to care more for the film. Shults crosses a threshold where he leaves things to imagination for the sake of it and I felt I would have cared more for the characters and the situation that they had found themselves in if there was a little more clarity. What made ‘The Witch’ (for me, its obvious comparative film) so enthralling was it managed to find the perfect balance between revealing and witholding information, this I think does more of the latter to the point of it nearly being implausible and inconsequential.
I applaud ‘It Comes At Night’ for not following the tried-and-tested formula and for it asking many questions of what it aims to be for a mature audience. It’s films like this that we don’t get very often and that separate this from all the big-budget fare. It’s a film that requires multiple rewatches and there’s a very high possibility of myself being able to raise my rating of it. Although impressive on first viewing, I think Shults doesn’t quite reach greatness with the ratio of what to reveal and what to withold to audiences. Too much of the film is left ambiguous that there isn’t all that many strings to clutch on but hopefully on further viewings, the film becomes a little more clear.