Friday, December 15, 2017

Movie Review: It Comes At Night (2017)

It Comes At Night (2017) directed, co-written, and co-edited by Trey Edward Shults

A family is living at their boarded-up cabin in the woods. There's plenty of plastic over the only functioning doorway. Some apocalyptic disease has broken out and precautions like gas masks and gloves are required for outdoor excursions. Unfortunately, the grandfather has come down with the disease. In the movie's harrowing opening sequence, the wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) says goodbye to her father, who clearly is on the verge of dying. Husband Paul (Joel Edgerton) and teenage son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) take the semi-comotose grandfather out into the woods where they shoot him in the head and burn the body. A few days later, someone tries to break into the house at night. The family manages to subdue the invader named Will (Christopher Abbott). After using the proper precautions (which includes tying up the invader outside to make sure he isn't going to come down with the disease), Paul talks to the guy and works out a deal to bring the guy's family to their home. The new family has some goats and chickens, so fresh milk and eggs. The two families awkwardly bond over a couple of days. Even so, tensions arise, especially for Travis, who has nightmares about the situation and is a bit fascinated with Will's young and pretty wife (Riley Keough). When things fall apart, the situation becomes very terrible for all involved.

The movie is very serious and almost unbearably tension-filled. The main family lives a rather spartan life that is made a little bit lighter by the new people coming in, but the dad is very mistrustful and has a hard time living up to his good intentions. Both families are played sympathetically, or at least ambiguously enough that they seem sympathetic given the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately for the characters, they don't give each other the benefit of the doubt and tragedy ensues. Unfortunately for the viewers, the big incident that ultimately causes the two families to turn on each other is unexplained (which isn't such a problem) and non-sensical given the situation (which is a huge problem). The ending is emotional powerful but unconvincing.

Technically, the film works quite well. The son's nightmares, while reflecting the actual situation, are clearly demarked by a change in the aspect ratio of the image, so the film doesn't have cheap fake-outs of the "oh that was just a dream" variety. By the final scene, the aspect ratio of the waking world is the same as the nightmare, suggesting the family has descended into a more nightmarish situation than they started with. The acting is very good and the house makes a believably creepy setting. The movie is artistically well done but key elements are too underdeveloped to satisfying to me.

Not recommended.

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