The end of the world will be no laughing matter, whatever causes it. The fear of what waits for you after an apocalyptic event especially what caused it is invisible. In Trey Edward Shult‘s It Comes At Night (2017) it seems the cataclysmic event was a plague. This film is more interested in the heightened tension , paranoia of American society, not the plague itself.
In It Comes At Night, we find ourselves in a ravaged world decimated by an unknown plague. Paul (Joel Edgerton), his wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and teenage son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr) isolate themselves in a remote house in the woods.
They have established a strict self-quarantine keeping interaction with the outside to the minimum. When they do go out they wear Gas Masks as an extra protection. When the security of the house is breached, they capture an intruder (Christopher Abbott).
First they attempt to establish if the intruder if he is infected with the plague. Eventually they learn Will has an wife Kim (Riley Keough) and young son. After much debate between Paul and Sarah, she suggests Will and his family should come live with them.
When they do arrive Paul sets some strict house rules for their new guests. At first things go well and despite the best intentions of both families, mistrust and paranoia takes over.Possibly one of them may actually be infected.
From the opening scene we see how cruel and ruthless the plague can be. Sarah’s elderly father succumb’s to the virus, his eyes are black , body covered in sores struggling to breathe. He awaits his death from the bullet, drenched in in petrol, soon to be buried in a hole. A powerful but necessity scene to set the films tone and the danger of the environment survivors attempt to live in.
We also learn from the news clippings, the paintings of the wall, especially the Pieter Bruegel‘s The Triumph of Death. An horrific artwork that portrays the darkest days of Europe when war and disease ran amok in the 1500’s. Nearly wiping the population of the map.
As I said earlier, It Comes At Night is not really interested in the threat of the plague, but more society and the family unit. You could argue the film is also a coming of age story as much of the film’s focus is on Travis. Through his suffering , his nightmarish visions of his grandfather’s death. The cinematography for Travis Dream sequences are exquisite. and they deliver the goriest scenes of the film. Organically captivating too.
Paul is not Travis natural father which suggests before his arrival his grandfather ,he may have been the father figure in his life. Paul and Travis relationship is on tenterhooks with Paul restricting his movement, Travis is at an age he wants to explore freely (red door in his dreams is a big temptation also a warning of danger lurks at the other side of it).Even after the arrival of the other family , Kim triggers sexual desires. These still can’t stop his visions of his possible impending doom and surrendering to the virus.
Paul is a man forced into tough decisions that won’t always be popular. From the basic set-up he looks like he may be a prepper next to being a school teacher. From the security set-up at his home, to the polythene protection, the gas masks to the stockpiling of the food and water. Off course the rules of engagement with survivors which leads to you thinking is the film an allegory of America’s current political climate?
With Donald Trump in power, a divisive petty man who seems to conjure hatred, anger and mistrust in your fellow humans. Whilst feeling something something really bad is about to happen.
It Comes At Night is a study of the erosion of the family unit. Stricken with grief and loss whilst drowning in the paranoia and nihilistic naivety of humanity. Some may argue in the film’s horror credentials, however Trey Edward Shults has crafted an unrelenting tension filled film. Full of atmosphere and trepidation that’s a stark reminder that humanity’s most terrifying monsters is humanity itself.
Horror, Thriller | USA, 2017 | 15 | Universal Pictures | Dir.Trey Edward Shults |Joel Edgerton, Kelvin Jackson Jr, Carmen Ejogo, Christopher Abbott, Riley Keough