It Comes At Night (2017)
Secure within a desolate home as an unnatural threat terrorizes the world, a man has established a tenuous domestic order with his wife and son, but this will soon be put to test when a desperate young family arrives seeking refuge. IMDb
Like The VVitch (2015), It Comes At Night is a movie that almost doesn’t feel like it belongs in the horror category. I think Suspense Thriller is a more accurate description. Regardless of how it’s labeled, though, It Comes At Night is one of the strongest movies I’ve seen this year and it does so without falling victim to the usual horror pitfall of characters who make stupid decisions seemingly only to make the plot move forward.
We’re rewarded with a movie that’s a very different entry to the horror genre specifically because of how much it focuses on the people. A common trope of horror movies today (and in the past) is that ultimately, we the audience are there to watch the horror not the characters. There is no sense of actual chemistry between the cast of most horror films which makes their potential deaths inconsequential and leaves us blasé to the people we’re arguably supposed to be relating to. It Comes At Night rather than simply show us 90 minutes of turmoil inflicted on helpless victims and their attempts to make it out alive, instead gives us a character study on how humanity stops at nothing to live in tense or unconventional circumstances.
The “horror” of It Comes At Night is not a monster, an alien, or a supernatural being; it’s a (fictional and unsettling) disease. It’s something we inherently aren’t afraid of. Diseases like cancer are frightening, sure, but not the diseases themselves; it’s their consequences: death, loss of close friends/family, isolation/loneliness. It Comes At Night showcases the response to this threat without ever focusing on the threat itself.
A lot of the conflict that arises in the film is not from fear of some horrible creature coming at the night (despite the title) but rather regarding the level of risk our characters are willing to take knowing it may compromise their lives. We the audience feel for both sides of every conflict as we watch these two families try their best to survive in a new world they largely know nothing about.
In a film with no dramatic irony, we as an audience are also largely left in the dark about what is going on in this fictional world. However, I feel as though we aren’t as afraid of this disease as we could be. The terror in the words and actions of the cast are indeed compelling, but we never really get more than simply knowing that we should be scared of this disease rather than actually arriving to that conclusion on our own. Would have liked the film to start a little earlier for more exposition on the calamity it’s caused to add more understanding for the justification of the actions taken by the characters and the consequences they have.
Regardless, It Comes At Night is definitely a movie worth seeing and definitely my favorite horror movie so far in 2017.