It is a pretty good time to be a horror fan. Over the past few years, there has been a true resurgence in quality, studio horror movies, and A24 has unleashed yet another fine example of excellent genre storytelling. It Comes at Night is, without question, one of the most unique, unsettling and truly outstanding horror experiences of 2017 so far and is a must see for anyone who enjoys genre movies.
In A24’s It Comes at Night, Paul (Joel Edgerton}) has managed to secure his family within a desolate home as an unknown and deadly threat terrorizes the world. He, along with his son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) and wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) have managed to establish a fragile but workable existence in isolation, but they soon realize just how fragile it really is. Things change and they are put to test when a desperate family disrupts their life, seeking refuge in their home. An uneasy alliance is formed, but the forces that are threatening the world, along with mistrust and mishappenings, threaten that alliance and the lives of both families.
Let’s start out by talking about what It Comes at Night isn’t. This is not a big, bombastic, apocalyptic, wide-scoped horror flick with a lot of jump scares and social panic. Though, there is at least one of the best uses of a jump scare I have personally seen in a long time. What It Comes at Night delivers is a quiet, small but terrifying story told within a larger world that has clearly fallen apart. We are seeing a small glimpse of what is going on in a larger world, but the answers that aren’t provided are what make the movie so unnerving and horrifying. It is so effective because the viewer is put in the shoes of the characters in the movie. What is happening out there? We don’t know. How do we know who to trust? We don’t. What is the best way to protect ourselves? No clear answer. This is ambiguity and nuance at its finest.
A24 has had a nearly flawless track record when it comes to distributing movies over the past few years and It Comes at Night is certainly not going to damage that reputation. That is thanks to two people. First and foremost, writer/director Trey Edward Shults had a vision for this movie and he executed it to perfection. This is a very personally crafted movie. It is very atmospheric. That sometimes might be seen as a fill-in-the-blank sort of lazy style of filmmaking by those who don’t enjoy overly artistic genre affair. However, in this case, Shults really pulls it off. And a lot of that is thanks to the other most important person in this movie; Joel Edgerton.
As it stands, Joel Edgerton is quietly asserting himself as one of the most talented men working in Hollywood today, and his performance in It Comes at Night is one of his finest to date. Everything about this movie that works on screen is playing off of him. There is so much crammed into his brutal and emotional performance that it is hard not to admire. Like other great horror movies, this material is elevated by genuinely great performances and actors who can actually act. Aside from Edgerton, Trey Edward Shults crammed this movie with talent at every turn with Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo and Riley Keough all delivering on a level that is a cut above what horror fanatics may be used to in your more average genre flick. However, outside of Edgerton, it is Kelvin Harrison Jr. who really shines. Rest assured, this dude is going to be a big name in the future.
As much praise as It Comes at Night deserves, it should be said that this movie may not be for everyone. If you want a more traditional, by the numbers scary movie, this may not be for you. This is the kind of movie that doesn’t answer every question and leaves a lot on the table, but in a way that serves the movie. But if that is the kind of thing that frustrates you, sure as you’re born, this movie will probably frustrate you.
Despite the fact that It Comes at Night may not have what one would call mass appeal, those that it does appeal to will find themselves taking in something truly special here. Trey Edward Shults has delivered an engrossing, thought-provoking, bleak and stunning movie that will resonate with you long after you leave the theater. This is one of the best horror movies of 2017 and very well could be one of the best movies of the year. Period.