By Hogan Short
VANCOUVER – Since its inception in 2013, the production company A24 is making a habit of taking chances on small budget features with lesser known visionary filmmakers. They’ve had an eye for seeing potential that has brought us surprise breakout films like The Witch, Moonlight, Room, and several others. In my opinion, they’re the most interesting and exciting production company in the film industry right now and they are hoping their next film, It Comes at Night, will be their next to stand out.
With only his second feature film, Trey Edward Schults (Krisha) directs this psychological thriller in a secure home in the woods as a family tries to protect themselves from a sickness that is plaguing the outside world. When a young man arrives claiming he needs to help his own family, the dilemma to help or self-preserve changes the routine in their lives. They wear gas masks, only go out in pairs, and never go out at night (spoiler: that’s when it comes).
This movie is directed with such precision that it makes the simple premise so intense and interesting throughout that it was obvious early on that A24 had another modern classic on their hands. The writing (also by Schults) has created characters that feel authentic with every decision they make completely justified by what their motivations are and not simply to move the story along. Impressive performances come from Joel Edgerton (The Gift) and Christopher Abott (Martha Marcy May Marlene), the film’s two leads. Each is just an ordinary man doing what he thinks is right to protect what is most important to him. The supporting cast arguably go through the worst of it as this burden of keeping strong has not fallen to them and they feel every threat and every sadness effectively on camera. The actors are given room to play with the superb material with long, uncut scenes that grab the viewers and hold us hostage. The original score also, like any great thriller, lies low beneath the surface, always adding to the dread, panic, or sadness onscreen.
It Comes at Night is a chilling movie. It not only terrifies with the unknown horrors waiting in the dark of the night, but forces us to ask ourselves what we can forgive as passive viewers. It makes us ask ourselves what decisions we would make in the same place as these people stuck in a such a hard situation. There are so many original ways to scare us in this film and not one of them is a jump scare. This film makes us terrified of everything the family may face on the other side of the red door that we don’t even realize by the end we are more terrified of the threats inside, within the family itself. We are more terrified of the thought of what we might be morally okay with doing by the time the last scene cuts to black.