Capitalising on our fear of the unknown & gradually escalating with a sense of eeriness, It Comes at Night is a gripping, suspenseful & brilliantly performed psychological horror that begins on a very promising note, makes effective use of its surroundings to create tension, yet doesn’t leave a strong impression when the veil is finally lifted.
The story mainly concerns a family of three who live a secluded life in the woods. One night, they find an intruder in their house and overpower & tie him up. On interrogation, they learn about his family and after much deliberation, decide to bring them into their home. Their arrival is welcomed at first but soon enough, paranoia & mistrust tears the two families apart.
Written & directed by Trey Edward Shults, It Comes at Night is his sophomore effort after Krisha, and is a much improved picture. When it comes to establishing the mystery, creating a feeling of something sinister brewing outside, and keeping the viewers in dark, Shults does an excellent job at it but there are also some creative choices that simply don’t work out in the film’s favour.
The scares are mainly derived from what’s left unseen, for those moments prey on the audience’s primal instinct and brings them into the narrative but it doesn’t reward such investment in the end, which is infuriating to an extent. Those dream sequences were more or less unnecessary to the plot as they don’t contribute anything significant to the final outcome and only slows the whole story down.
The remote location & isolated setting do help amplify the mysterious vibe, plus all of it is further enhanced by the smooth, smart & sharp operation of the camera. Editing is another one of its strengths that gradually unfolds the narrative, and allows the atmosphere to set up naturally. Sound is utilised just as well while the brooding score keeps adding more intensity whenever the occasion calls for it.
Coming to the performances, the cast consists of Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbot, Riley Keough, Carmen Ejogo & Kelvin Harrison Jr., and all chip in with solid inputs. Edgerton, Ejogo & Harrison Jr. are convincing as a family and play their part really well while Abbot & Keough are in as a desperate family seeking refuge and are no slouch in their given roles. The dynamic between the two families is what drives this tale, and Shults handles it well.
On an overall scale, It Comes at Night is a dark, fascinating & unnerving example of psychological horror that’s engaging from the get-go but fails to wrap things up on a satisfying note. Its ending may leave some viewers frustrated while others will accept it for what it is. Nevertheless, apart from that and a couple more shortcomings, It Comes at Night succeeds in keeping a firm grip on the viewers’ attention for the major portion of its runtime. Definitely worth a shot.