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article imageReview: ‘It Comes at Night’ is haunting because it’s probable Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Jun 12, 2017 in Entertainment
‘It Comes at Night’ is a genuine but disturbing depiction of desperation and survival instincts to which everyone can relate.
One of the most attractive aspects of post-apocalyptic movies from a filmmaker’s perspective is they can be made with big or small budgets. It can be populated with gruesome monsters or imply a destructive force lurks on the periphery. The nature of the movie allows the sets to be sparse and for a limited number of locations to be the norm rather than a notable reduction. They definitely present some limitations, but also a lot of opportunity. It Comes at Night is a movie about isolation by necessity and its effects on a family.
Paul, Sarah and Travis (Joel Edgerton, Carmen Ejogo and Kelvin Harrison Jr., respectively) live in a large house in the woods, away from the general population — or what’s left of it. A disease has drastically reduced the humanity’s numbers, though they’re unsure of how it spreads or where it came from since all official forms of communication have long stopped. One night, a man breaks into their house. After some initial friction, they invite Will (Christopher Abbott) and his family to stay in their home. However, in spite of their guests’ gratitude and efforts to contribute, there’s an underlying nervousness that comes with sharing their space in a time of emergency.
This movie is a very slow burn, in which the tension gradually builds to a fever pitch. Yet it’s not as if the audience sits waiting for something to jump out of the dark because it’s clearly not that kind of movie; but it’s also obvious something terrible is going to happen. The problem is studios have trouble promoting these subtler types of pictures, so they tend to create trailers that promise more conflict then may actually be in the movie. Much like The Witch, this is a psychological thriller that is being positioned as a horror movie. Unfortunately this generates viewer expectations that won’t necessarily be satisfied, creating disgruntled moviegoers who feel they were misled. Thus, in spite of it being a solid picture, the reactions may not be favourable due to studios overpromising.
While the narrative is unhurried, it is engaging. Although Paul and Sarah appear to have a mutual partnership, when it comes down to the nitty gritty he takes charge as the patriarch. When Will and his family arrive, Paul becomes an even more dominant presence to reinforce his position as the alpha male. The camera rarely leaves Paul’s family, which keeps audiences at a similar distance from Will’s family even though they’re living in the same house. As a result, viewers aren’t provided omnipotence and must judge the characters’ actions with the same limited knowledge. It’s an interesting but effective approach to the narrative.
The performances are all very convincing as the actors are generally performing in a confined space. Edgerton and Harrison are unquestionably the film’s protagonists, though their roles in the narrative differ greatly. The former is a source of authority, while the latter is almost a prophet and to some extent a representation of lost innocence. The only real issue the film may present is the inconsistent preventative measures used against the plague.
Director: Trey Edward Shults
Starring: Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott and Carmen Ejogo
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