God bless A24. I don’t usually tend to put a spotlight on specific film studios and/or companies in my reviews, but in this case I feel as if it’s warranted. Now, think of any really interesting independent drama, or an original and unique low-budget genre film that you’ve seen in the past couple of years, and there’s a good chance that it was released by A24. Their output in regards to the horror genre has been particularly impressive, ranging from critical darlings like last year’s The Witch, to more schlocky, guilty pleasure fare like The Monster, and then there’s whatever the hell was going on with Kevin Smith’s Tusk. Point being, they’ve been responsible for getting lots of refreshing content seen and enjoyed by both critics and audiences, and here we have their latest offering with It Comes at Night, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi/horror mashup that will no doubt leave most general audiences members scratching their heads, but will also satisfy those looking for something a bit more unconventional and singular for their viewing experience.
As with most of my horror reviews as of late, I’ll try to keep the plot summary as brief and concise as possible as to let the true impact of the film be felt as best as possible. But to just cover the basics, It Comes at Night centers on a family of three living in an unspecified time in the near-ish future after a vaguely apocalyptic event has wiped out most of humanity. The three of them try to keep busy during the day and maintain their home in the safest possible lockdown at night. Of course, things aren’t always what they seem and not everything can go according to plan all the time, hence some conflict and tensions must arise sooner or later, and ninety minutes later, we have a feature film on our hands. To sum it up in a more casual manner, think of this film as an expansion on this infamous one sentence horror story: “The last man on earth hears a knock on the door.”
With such a limited setting and by extension, minimal cast involved, nailing all the central roles here is crucial, and It Comes at Night does just that. By now, Joel Edgerton is a fairly well known leading man, and does a more than capable job as the central patriarchal figure of this twisted domestic family setting. Carmen Ejogo also fares well here, handily redeeming herself after playing one of film history’s dumbest characters in Alien: Covenant. Rounding out the central trio is newcomer Kelvin Harrison Jr, who more than capably adopts the most empathetic role here. And while I’m hesitant to even mention whether or not more actors show up in this, let’s just say that if any others appear in this film, they all do a very good job and convincingly add to the central conflict at hand.
Despite its lean running time of about an hour and a half, It Comes at Night is a pretty slow burn throughout most of it, and for what the film was ultimately going for, both tonally and in terms of the subject matter and thematic elements, it more than earns it. While the rather deliberate, unconventional pace might rub general audiences the wrong way (I dare not guess what the CinemaScore rating for this will be – would a C+ be too much to ask?), those willing to give it a chance and who are probably more familiar with films containing this sort of unnerving, dread-induced crawl forward will likely find a lot to appreciate here. Director Trey Edward Shults is only on his second feature with this puppy, but already he’s proven himself to be a talent to watch out for, with a particular knack for being able to depict a rather uncomfortable social scenario grow increasingly problematic and even potentially dangerous as time moves forward. This was true for his equally impressive debut feature Krisha, and definitely carries over here as well. Now the question is, which multi-million dollar franchise offering is this guy going to get suddenly tossed into?
Overall, It Comes at Night is a damn fine piece of modern genre filmmaking, and a breath of fresh air in what’s thus far been a pretty safe, generic summer at the movies. If you’re in the mood for an intelligent, original viewing experience, rounded out by some genuine thrills and tension, then this is the film you’ve been waiting for. Smart, complex, and told in a very tight, lean fashion, this fits right in with the creative and business model A24 as perfected for themselves over the last few years. Give these folks all your money, because they’ve certainly earned it.