It Comes at NightReviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 06/16/17 02:26:52
This is an impeccably-constructed and presented film, and with a genre-heavy couple of months ahead of me, I shall be actively avoiding seeing things much like it. There's a rot at the base of this sort of post-plague horror that I gave a hard time abiding, an embrace of being paranoid about your neighbors and culling the sick that I'm growing weary of at this point in time.It starts with one of the genre's go-tos, a family putting down a member they love because he's too far gone, with Paul (Joel Edgerton) and seventeen-year-old son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) bringing terminal father-in-law Bud (David Pendleton) to the back to burn and bury the body, though mother Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) is unsure sending Travis is the right way to go. Not that Sarah is any sort of sentimental pushover; when they catch Will (Christopher Abbott) breaking into the house, she's the one who sees bringing him, wife Kim (Riley Keough), and son Andy (Griffin Robert Faulkner) to live with them because you can't just have desperate people knowing where your well-supplied house is.
Writer/director Trey Edward Shults builds and executes its scenario very well. The film is striking visually, with excellent use of single lights in pitch darkness. What's revealed as a good-sized family home in daytime shots seems tighter and more claustrophobic when the light only extends a few feet in any direction, and the space in question is often the attic from which Travis eavesdrops on much of the rest of the house; night seems to be uniformly lacking moon and stars, like somebody has turned out the lights as the world ends. Dream sequences seem legitimately feverish, and an obvious trick of presentation is done much less ostentatiously than it might be.
The cast does good work, too. Joel Edgerton and Carmen Ejogo are an intriguing pairing as Travis's parents, with Paul and Sarah written as tending to reinforce each other's less sentimental impulses, and it makes for a fascinating pair of performances, as they each get to show determination and uncertainty about "whatever it takes to survive" thinking. It's a bit of a shame that Edgerton is given more screen time; Ejogo often adds a much greater charge to a scene as the take-no-prisoners mom, and watching them debate is exciting and has unexpected moments, as they both come across as formidable but also easy to believe as Travis's parents. Kelvin Harrison Jr. is kind of terrific as Travis; he projects a thorough, winning decency that never seems affected or shallow. It's a fun contrast to the usual grown-up-too-fast teenager, and his awkward scene with Riley Keough is one of the film's best.
That scene of what may be the only teenager in the world fidgeting around the only woman he'll encounter any time soon who isn't his mother hints at more opportunity for drama that Shults ever pursues. There is rich material here that ties directly into the performances, questions about how Paul and Sarah strong-arm WIll and Kim into a secondary position and just what can be expected of the kids in this situation. There's a simmering bit about how Will's story doesn't always line up. Unfortunately, Shults seems a bit too content with looking at how the characters relate to actually get it to lead anywhere. He quickly pushes to a final confrontation that is well-executed and has a sobering last image, but the abrupt conclusion feels like the filmmaker avoiding the interesting ideas he's brought up. Perhaps he's just being cynical, making the point that humanity is too thoroughly paranoid for more complex scenarios to play out, but if that's the case, the cut-off should perhaps be a little more jarring, with a bit more of a sense of the characters falling short rather than playing things out.Again, "It Comes at Night" is nice craft; there are times I'd find its like brilliant, and it tended to be effective in the moment. But even if it were the sort of horror that interested me right now, it would be nice if it did more with its potential, so that a look back at how well Shults can present an emotion doesn't come with as many regrets about wasted story potential.
|© Copyright HBS Entertainment, Inc.|