19 Miles Apart: It Comes at Night
The distance between Beacon, New York, and Highland, New York is 19 miles. Well, it’s technically 18.8 miles apart, but 19 keeps it nice and round. Beacon is where Kyle Bahl lives, and Highland is where I, Ryan Fasciano live. It’s a pretty simple premise: we watch a newly released film, then sit down at our fancy computers and type back and forth to each other about the film until we believe the conversation ends, while we are, you guessed it, 19 miles apart. This time we are talking about It Comes at Night, which came out Friday, June 9. Spoilers Beware.
Ryan: We just watched It Comes at Night, the new horror, mystery film from one of our favorite studios, A24. I let trailers ruin my experience to some movies, and for this movie, I repeated the act. I figured out where this movie was going and sadly it did hamper the film for me. I just need to learn that if I’m excited for a movie (definitely excited for this one), that I shouldn’t watch the trailer, especially like the second or third one. This time around the second trailer did me in.
Besides knowing where the plot was going, overall I enjoyed my experience, even though horror is probably my least favorite genre. I thought the film looked beautiful; the cinematography gave it that eerie feel throughout the movie. The film was suspenseful even in moments when nothing happened. I was on the edge of my seat for most of the film, and it always seemed for no reason. Is this a plus or minus for Night? I know the beauty of this movie is the fact that we don’t know the threat that is outside and we learn nothing of it, even as the film progresses. All we know is that the family we survive within this world just buried their grandfather Bud (David Pendleton) because he got infected with whatever is ravaging the world. The family survives through a strict domestic order led by patriarch Paul (Joel Edgerton), who seems always to know best until a young family joins his. Night makes you not want to trust anyone, which seems to be a theme it’s leaning on, what do you think, Kyle?
Kyle: Overall the film is a well-executed sophomore effort from writer-director Trey Edward Shults. I’ll jump in on your shoutout to cinematographer Drew Daniels as well. I highly enjoyed this film, and I know that’s because I avoided all marketing. The most I knew about this movie was the red door cardboard cutout in the theater for the past two months. I got to tell you, going into this film blank was a great benefit. When we arrived at the first big confrontation, Paul meets Will (Christopher Abbott), there are so many questions. One of those questions got answered in the trailer you watched.
I had no idea whether Will had a family. Think about that. When Paul interrogates Will, there are so many “facts” given- 1. Will had a wife and child. 2. They have chickens and goats. 3. They’re only a few days walk away. 4. He had a brother who died. 5. They know nothing about the plague. 6. He hasn’t seen anyone for days.
All these questions get set up in my mind, and I had possibilities about where the story might go, but no definitive answer. The truck ride to find Will’s family had so much tension that resulted in a sigh of bemusement when they flash forward a few days and Will and Paul return with Will’s family. It is an experience I don’t think most viewers will get because the central idea of the two families in one space reveals itself in the first 20 seconds of that second trailer.
But hey, I can’t blame you or the marketing department. I’ve watched the Black Panther trailer 100+ times, as well as various internet trailer deciphering breakdowns. Night has made $9.3M on a $5M production budget, so everyone’s happy. I know some horror fans on the interwebs feel like they got the switcheroo. They wanted a monster in the physical sense, not the psychological sense. Do you think it’s bad practice for marketing to play up the horror aspects that don’t fully pay off?
Ryan: Yeah, I mean why not? It seems to have worked. Yes, I did believe we would eventually see a monster, especially with a title as It Comes at Night. Most believed the “it” was a creature of some sorts, but the creators threw us a curveball and made the possibility of the “it” a bunch of different options. The “it” could be paranoia and fear. The “it” could be Will because he did indeed come at night. The “it” could be the fragile mind of Travis since he can’t sleep at night. The “it” could be whatever attacked Stanley, the dog and supposedly opened the door and maybe even moved Andrew while he was asleep (again this could be Travis). Finally, the “it” could be whatever virus or infection is killing humankind at least around the area the film’s based. Who the hell knows. The door is open, but yes I could imagine how serious horror buffs would be angry with this notion. For those that digest the genre ever so often like myself, it doesn’t matter. I think Shultz was just trying to build a film around the horror genre, not technically a horror movie. I believe that it worked; who needs a monster when you have Edgerton being a badass do it all teacher Dad.
Remember, marketing can do whatever they think will work. A24 has a history now, and they have been very successful. We know this from the GQ article we read about them. They will do anything, including turning Alicia Vikander into a robot on Tinder, so why wouldn’t they push the horror genre to the public about a film that technically might not be a horror movie. At the end of the day, A24 picks great movies, and I think Night is another win for them. A24 is in a challenging world where everyone wants already known IP, nothing original, but here they are pumping out original content.
Back to It Comes at Night, I know you enjoyed the film but didn’t love it. What did you like and dislike about the film? I know it’s a broad, simple question, but sometimes these kind of questions are all you need.
Kyle: The performances are solid throughout. As we said, Edgerton and Abbott are solid. Edgerton always has this thing of emitting a caring soul through a gruff exterior. I think we both loved Abbott when we saw the Tribeca Film Festival premiere of Sweet Virginia and he continues to deliver here. If you look at his IMDB page, I love how he’s flying under the radar with these small indie dramas from young filmmakers.
The wives played by Carmen Ejogo & Riley Keough, while underwritten, deliver with what they have. I don’t want to knock the son Travis, played by Kelvin Harrison Jr.; I just think in either the casting or the direction there was too much of the thing that they wanted from that character. He’s this boy in a teenager’s body, and at times it was hard to rest the story on him.
I thought the production design and the cinematographer mentioned earlier were great. The cracks of daylight through the boarded up house, the water purification system, the plastic tarp covered entrance to the house all help build the post-apocalyptic world without a radio scene.
The dream sequences are creepy and keep the feeling of dread present throughout, but it’s the tension. The slow, paranoid tension that keeps everything so engaging. I thought writer-director Shults dropped enough breadcrumbs at appropriate times to keep me questioning what would happen next, while not revealing all.
Lastly, the ending. It’s almost a blink, and you miss it kind of moment, and that’s what I love about it. The moment wasn’t overemphasized, and that drives it home.
Anything I missed? It’s a solid 4 out of 5 stars for me. I don’t see it resonating forever with me, but a solid film. Some similar films above it might be No Country For Old Men, Prisoners, Under The Skin, The Shining. On par: Funny Games, It Follows, Green Room, The Babadook. Below it: The Descent, The Machinist.
How’s it rank for you?
Ryan: I’m glad you brought up Kelvin Harrison Jr. I didn’t dig his performance, and I love the fact that you said he pulls a Big and seems to have a very young soul in his 17-year old body. It was just weird to me.
Overall, I give the film the same ranking. It’s a solid film that I would watch again. I just wonder if I would have liked it or disliked it more if the horror genre was more prevalent in it. I would say dislike it; but even though this might be hypocritical towards what I stated earlier about not needing a monster; the more I think about this film, the more part of me did want to see a monster in the woods.