It Comes at Night isn’t a zombie movie, though it does offer some of that same sense of desperation and claustrophobia. Nor is it an outbreak movie, although an unnamed, unknown disease does threaten its characters. It’s also not even a horror movie, at least not in the broadest strokes.
It Comes at Night is, instead, a suspense film about family and isolation and, stranger still, growing up.
Paul, Sarah, and their teenage son Travis live in relative seclusion, the survivors of a plague that has seemingly overtaken the world. Our introduction to their family comes as they kill and burn Sarah’s elderly father, the disease’s latest victim.
The following night, they’re awoken by an intruder, Will, who’s scavenging for potable water for his wife and a young son of his own. After some initial mistrust, Will, his wife Kim, and son Andrew end up moving into their reinforced domicile.
The death of Travis’s dog, Stanley, marks a turning point, and the shaky camaraderie shared between the two families begins to sour, all with the silent specter of the plague (and fears of who might have it) simmering in the background.
The title of the film, It Comes at Night, and the taut suspense showcased in the trailer easily lead the viewer to expect some clear, physical threat. What you find, though, is something broader.
What, exactly, comes at night?
Well, everything, really. Will arrives at night, a portent of a broader world that Travis senses but will never know. So too, do Travis’s dreams—stark but evocative imaginings about the implications of his grandfather contracting the disease and his adolescent attraction to Kim (the only woman we see in the film save his own mom). At night is also when young Andrew sleepwalks, which touches off the events leading to the film’s tragic final act.
Beautifully filmed and competently acted, It Comes at Night is an interesting diversion, but one without the sort of pulse-pounding action or lavish set pieces generally required for mass appeal. (This is reflected at Rotten Tomatoes, where its critics’ rating is 89%… and its viewers’ rating is 44%.)
There’s something to be said for the Blu-ray extras, which showcase a minimal but motivated cast that seems to be genuinely invested in the story being told and a crew that’s equally interested in telling it to the best of their possible abilities—as evidenced by some unorthodox and simply stunning drone camera shots. But, unless you’re super into the nuts and bolts of filmmaking or are an avid fan of the more unique strains of suspense cinema, it’s likely more of a rental than a must-buy.
More than anything, It Comes at Night is about the lengths we will go to to protect those close to us, and the emotional fallout that inevitably occurs once we’ve done all we can. If you’re interested in human drama and nuanced performance, check it out, but if you’re in the market for a Halloween popcorn flick, look elsewhere.
Review materials provided by: Lionsgate