It Comes at Night is written and directed by Trey Edward Shults and stars Joel Edgerton as a man who has secured himself and his family inside their home shielding themselves from an unknown threat in the outside world and their domestic order is tested when a family arrives seeking refuge. Now firstly this movie from a technical standpoint is incredible, there’s great cinematography, an eerie score, good use of lighting, and I wouldn’t expect more from an A24 production. Now this thing is labelled as being first and foremost a horror, although I’d say this is more of a survival drama/thriller character study with some horror/thriller themes woven into the story here and there. The horror elements when integrated are chilling, intense, and will no doubt have you on the edge of your seat in suspense. The more character centric content which makes up the majority of the film is less thrilling, it isn’t bad, but I found myself wanting a more consistent tone where the current tone dips into some darker stuff here and there but never goes full on until the final act.
One of the problems this film doesn’t have is bad performances, every member of this small cast was awesome in selling the terror they’re all going through and they all have their shining moments. There is also a very good amount of great dialogue scenes between characters that do well in adding some human tension to the story, much of this is delivered by the talented Joel Edgerton. Edgerton is undoubtedly incredible here, he has a knack for disappearing into a number of his roles and this is no exception as he is terrifying when he needs to be and sells the humble side of his character just as well. Despite Edgerton being the standout, Riley Keough, Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo, and Kelvin Harrison Jr. make up the rest of the cast and all play their part in the story. Keough is probably the one who doesn’t have the most memorable solo moment but she brings the drama and the emotion when she is called to do so. Despite the performances being great and all having intriguing individual moments looking into their personalities, as a whole I wasn’t as invested in the story as I wanted to be.
The film starts off and sets this dark gruelling tone that hooked me instantly and had me excited for what was to come. But then it slowly pulls back on the outright horror elements and lets the more character centric moments take centre stage. For the rest of the first and second acts there are moments here and there that are really terrifying, many of these moments involve more atmospheric personal/human terror as oppose to jump scare material. And in these moments I was engaged but these moments are few and far between and my attention was wavering between these key scenes. I have to say I was never bored by any of the slower character building dialogue scenes but I found myself wanting things to move on sooner rather than later. The final act or more specifically the last 20 minutes is riveting right to the final shot and delivers on what I wanted the whole or the majority of the runtime to deliver on. As I mentioned, in terms of the cinematography, the lighting, the score, and essentially every technical aspect it was near flawless and that really did help me keep invested when I was somewhat drifting out of it.
So in the end, It Comes at Night delivered on some of the thrills and chills I expected but not to the extent that I hoped I’d get. A24 time and time again delivers on great original films and although this may not be as incredible as some of their previous releases it’s still a good solid entry. If it’s straight up horror you are looking for, that is not at all what this is, it does have those elements but it focuses a lot more on character and style and trying to slowly build tension as oppose to modern horror jump-scares. So just know what to expect before going in and you won’t be disappointed or misinformed.