It seems to be the case that every year a horror movie is released to much critical acclaim but a lot of audience distain. Granted there might be a sense of an audience unwilling to be tested or broaden their horizons but mostly it’s because the studio incorrectly advertised the film and sold a different product to what the audience got. It happened with The Witch and now it happened with It Comes at Night. It perhaps does the film a disfavour even if the box office proceedings were boosted by the film’s questionable advertising.
America (and presumably the rest of the world) is in a midst of a global catastrophe in which a deadly disease is wiping out the population and leaving any survivors struggling for survival as food and water are scarce. Deep in the woods, Paul (Joel Edgerton) and his wife, Sarah (Carmen Ejogo), and their son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr) feel the brunt of the deadly epidemic as they are forced to kill Sarah’s father as he succumbs to the disease. The family struggle to live in these new, and harsh conditions whilst desperately trying to avoid a deadly encounter with any fellow survivors.
Many films in similar nature to It Comes at Night tend to heavily discuss topics like what’s the point of surviving when we lose our humanity? Events following the deadly plague outbreak clearly show an every man for himself mentality where mistrust and paranoia reign supreme even in times where an (un)stable trust has emerged with another party. In events following the outbreak, the human race is little without its humanity, more a series of small, bitter clans. It creates a strong air of paranoia and mistrust which powers the film and this strong aura stays when a family of three move in when Paul’s family humanely decide to help another family of three.
Comparisons to Robert Egger’s The Witch goes further than being similarly mismarketed, the eerie wooden setting adds to the isolation and tension and the score is just powerfully intrusive. Similarly, It Comes at Night serves as an interesting discussion of the family unit, with Joel Egerton’s vigilant and strict dad trying to protect his family by maintaining a feeling of mistrust and suspicion for anyone not among his closet family
The cause of the outbreak it kept very much in the dark, we know about as much as the characters and that is the outbreak started in the cities. Keeping the events that transpired before we meet the characters shrouded in mystery adds to tension and paranoia because the viewer is unaware of how the disease is transmitted person to person (though it appears bodily contact is enough). The performances are outstanding with Kelvin Harrison Jr’s Travis being our portal into this post-apocalyptic world.