It Comes At Night is yet another film about people waiting for the end of the world. In this case, the end is due to the outbreak of a mysterious disease. It Comes At Night is a film that I meant to see in theaters when it originally released but I never got a chance. It Comes At Night was acclaimed by critics but generally hated by audiences. (Some of the comments on twitter, from people who had just returned from seeing the film, were incredibly angry.) To be honest, it’s really not surprising that audiences didn’t embrace the film. Having recently watched the film myself, I can tell you that It Comes At Night is one of the most depressing movies ever made.
Seriously, remember how depressing the Arnold Schwarzenegger/Abigail Breslin zombie film Maggie was? Well, compared to It Comes At Night, Maggie might as well have been a musical comedy.
It Comes At Night opens with a former school teacher named Paul (Joel Edgerton) executing his father-in-law. Paul’s wife, Sarah (Carmen Ejogo), and his teenage son, Travis (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.) understand that Paul had no choice. There’s been an outbreak of a disease and the old man was infected. The only way to keep everyone else in the family safe was to kill him and burn his body.
Paul and his family live in an isolated cabin. At all times, the front door remains locked. Only Paul and Sarah are allowed to carry the key. No one is allowed to leave the house at night and under no circumstances are strangers allowed to enter the house. Sometimes, after the sun goes down, Travis thinks that he can hear sounds in the surrounding woods. It’s a reminder that people are out there but the majority of them are either slowly dying from the disease or scavengers trying to survive.
Paul ruthlessly enforces the rules but then, one night, a man named Will (Christopher Abbott) attempts to break into the house. Will swears that he’s not infected. He was just trying to find food for his wife, Kim (Riley Keough) and his son, Andrew (Griffin Robert Faulkner). After Paul determines that Will does not have the disease, he agrees to let Will and his family stay with them. If the house is ever attacked, Paul and Sarah figure, Will and Kim will provide an extra layer of defense.
And, for a few weeks, everything is fine. The two families bond. But Travis is still having vivid nightmares in which he sees men and women who have been infected and who are living in the woods. And he is still hearing sounds at night…
The inevitability of death hangs over minute of It Comes At Night. From the film’s first scene, you know that things are probably not going to end well. When the two families do start to surrender to their paranoia, it’s upsetting but not particularly shocking. It’s depressing because it all seems very plausible. I think we all know that, if the world really was ending, it wouldn’t bring about peace or reflection. Instead, people would keep fighting until the final second. That’s just human nature. What makes It Comes At Night so sad and disturbing is that there are no traditional heroes or villains. There’s just six people trying to live their lives in a world that’s rapidly coming to an end. They think they can beat the darkness surrounding them but the audience knows better.
I know, I know. You just read that paragraph and you thought, “Yeah, Lisa, that sounds like a really fun movie.”
And you’re right. It’s not a fun movie. I would seriously warn anyone struggling with depression to be careful about watching It Comes At Night. It’s definitely not going to cheer you up. I spent the first half of thid 90 minute film convinced that I was probably going to stop watching because it was just too dark. But I ended up watching it to the end because, even if it was depressing, it was also a very well-made film. It sucks you in, even though you might not want it to. The entire cast does a good job but special praise has to be given to Kelvin Harrison, Jr., who gives a searingly vulnerable performance as Travis.
It Comes At Night is a well-made, disturbing, and heartbreakingly sad movie and probably not one that I’ll have any desire to watch again for quite some time.