Trey Edward Shults’ “It Comes At Night” is a great movie, it’s also a poorly marketed movie by a studio that had no idea what to make of it. It’s a masterful dramatic thriller less in the realm of “The Walking Dead” and much more in the realm of “On the Road.” Shults definitely creates a film that focuses on the apocalypse and a family surviving through the apocalypse. But what Shults does is create an enemy that assures an inevitable and unstoppable death at the hands of a miserable disease that is inexplicable and remorseless. When we meet Paul, his wife and son Travis, they’re beginning to set their grandfather free in the woods where they plan to execute and bury him.
The world has been ravaged by some kind of disease that assures a very grisly and gruesome death and what “It Comes At Night” does is focus less on how to survive the disease, but how to face the all guaranteed death by the disease. Paranoia runs thick through the seams of the film’s screenplay, as Paul and his family commit to a very strict and disciplined regiment. They are allowed in certain areas of the house and never go out at night, and almost always stay in the same room together. This series of rules serve as a problem and a delusion of control over something they can’t possibly predict. One night when a man breaks in to the house looking for supplies, they learn that he has a family in dire need of help and they begrudgingly agree to take him and his wife and son in.
What seems like a comfortable set up gradually slides downward, as son Travis begins having nightmares about their grandfather and his final moments. To make matters worse, their dog disappears in to the woods during a scavenging trip. What Paul, Travis and Sarah have on their hands is nothing but hope and the minute optimism that perhaps their new ally isn’t setting them up for something immensely violent, especially when they’re both attacked by scavengers on the road during a pick up trip through the forest. Shults is very good about playing with our expectations and allowing us to make assertions on our own, putting us in to the seats of the characters from beginning to end.
If everything we thought we once knew about humanity and our fate has been destroyed, then how can we trust the person sitting next to us? Folks like Joel Edgerton and Carmen Ejogo are brilliant, portraying two people at the end of their ropes, and are more terrified about opening up to new people than the prospect of the disease breaching their doors. “It Comes At Night” is a gut punch of a drama, one that focuses on a remorseless and pitiless disease that keeps the characters of Shults’ piece consistently paranoid and delirious. It’s a marvelous and misunderstood film warranting a second chance.