It’s like watching a random episode of The Walking Dead without any context.
A family live in seclusion, in a boarded up house in the middle of the woods, cowering from a lethal contagion that’s decimating the country. But when another family become aware of their home, things will get complicated.
Missing It Comes at Night in the cinemas was frustrating, but avoiding anything about it was surprisingly easy. However it didn’t live up to the expectation built around it. Perhaps I wasn’t in the right mood for it, as this sort of film is usually up my alley.
Joel Edgerton plays a father at his wits end and trying to protect his family from a mysterious and fatal infection, and the film does not tell you anything beyond the confines of their house. As I knew nothing about the movie or what the titular “it” was, the film’s deliberate ambiguity eventually became frustrating. It really doesn’t tell you anything.
Even when the characters meet another family, nobody knows anything or feels at liberty to drop even the slightest piece of exposition. Which can be good, ambiguity can bring some interesting stories for the audience to make up their own opinions on what happened… only It Comes at Night has another issue.
The characters just aren’t interesting. The performers are good in their roles, but the roles themselves offer little for the viewer to chew on, I found myself distanced from them as I knew extremely little about them. This was compounded by even more ambiguity as the meat of the story stemmed from paranoid delusion, where no one trusts anyone else… even within the family members themselves!
It has a grim, bleak tone and is visually dark and unsettling. Edgerton’s character Paul has a son who sneaks around the house at night, having been woken by fierce nightmares, eavesdropping on the other characters in intimate moments. It has themes of lost humanity and paranoia, which are powerful when the film concludes; you have to ask yourself who caused the disasters that befall them… or if it was the entire group stupidly acting against itself reflexively in a time of stress.
The film itself is beautifully shot and has great transitions, for a new director, Trey Edward Shults, this is impressive work and I can’t say it was a bad film in terms of film-making.
But for me there simply wasn’t enough of the characters to hold onto; I didn’t feel sympathy or pity for any of them, which seemed crucial for what is a character-driven screenplay. Perhaps I wasn’t in the correct mindset for it, perhaps a second viewing would show me clues and details I missed that maybe lift the shroud of ambiguity a little.
For me it was just too grim and too mysterious for its own good.