In this day and age of trailers determined to pretty much blow entire movies ahead of time, it was refreshing to see how the spots for IT COMES AT NIGHT refused to divulge its specific premise to potential viewers. Well... that's because not even the actual FILM provides that information.
IT COMES AT NIGHT is a doomsday/survival shocker which completely disposes of Act One. Whatever plague has swept the world has already swept it, and you'll get no specific answers regarding the nature of the sickness threatening the few survivors. You just know from the beginning that anyone unfortunate enough to become infected must be dispatched immediately and the body disposed of by burning. Father Paul (Joel Edgerton of THE GIFT), mother Sarah (Carmen Ejogo of ALIEN: COVENANT) and teenage son Travis (Kelvin Harrison, Jr. of the ROOTS redux) are what's left of a family enduring this miserable situation in the deep woods... but of course, company comes calling. After an intense and violent vetting-out, the family cautiously agrees to join forces with a young couple (Christopher Abbott and Riley Keough) and their young son. (They've got livestock, including a couple of goats, to add to the unit... I must admit that my first question was whether one of the goats answered to "Black Phillip.")
But even if the men manage to survive the deadly intentions of other outside forces as they attempt to bring the families together, there's both the burgeoning sexual frustration of Travis (the suggestiveness of the title is no coincidence) AND whatever the dog's barking at in the distance to contend with if there's to be a future worth hoping for.
The lack of an explanation for the doom scenario scarcely matters... we'd get absolutely no more helpful information or insight into the characters or their actions if we had to sit through yet another "and then the virus escaped, and then the missiles flew" setup reel. It's a MacGuffin, and that's fine. However, the same no-tell premise is also used as a convenient excuse to get by with some frustrating inconsistencies (it WOULD have been helpful to understand the rules governing just when protective clothing and masks are supposed to be helpful and when they don't seem to be necessary at all--even in the great outdoors). No, we're left with raw humanity and we can do little but watch helplessly as everything inevitably goes to hell.
IT COMES AT NIGHT is unquestionably well-acted and intensely put together; and on this level it holds its own against such unavoidably comparable A24 releases as THE WITCH and GREEN ROOM. Yet while this is strictly a matter of personal preference on my part, I found that the latter two films (harsh and unforgiving as they were) provided more satisfying journeys, leading as they did to conclusions that made the ordeals particularly worthwhile. Here, I found nothing but utter hopelessness for all humanity, and I was not at all convinced that the trip had done me any good. Kudos where kudos are deserved, I suppose... but I can't recommend the experience.
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