M.L. Miller here! As I go into my tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved. Moving on to Year Seven of my year-long Retro-Best in Horror I’m recapping the Countdown beginning officially on October 1, 2016 and going through September 30, 2017. I have posted Best of lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also worked and reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around, and even adding a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t! Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!
Released on June 9, 2017! Available On Demand, digital download, & DVD here A24 Films! Also streaming on Netflix!
IT COMES AT NIGHT (2017)
Directed by Trey Edward Shults
Written by Trey Edward Shults
Starring Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo, Riley Keough, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Griffin Robert Faulkner, David Pendleton, Chase Joliet, Mick O’Rourke, Mikey as Stanley the Dog!
Find out more about this film here, @ItComesAtNight, and on Facebook here
One of the most effective trailers of recent memory (see below) delivers on nerve-shredding tension and suspense as well as some of the best acting you’re going to find in a horror film, yet will most likely infuriate the more literal-minded folks that take a chance on it. If you’re looking for a monster movie—a hulking, threatening, terrifying “IT” promised in the title and hinted at in the trailer for IT COMES AT NIGHT, you’re going to be disappointed. But if you’re more literate than literal, you’re going to be impressed at the restraint director/writer Trey Edward Shults uses for the bulk of this movie. I fall somewhere in the middle and will explain below.
We are not made privy as to what ended the world, just that society has collapsed and a small family comprised of patriarch Paul (Joel Edgerton), his wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo), their son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), and his dog Stanley (Mikey) live in a secluded area in the woods in a boarded up house with only one single door (painted red) blocking themselves from whatever threats there are outside. Apparently, some kind of virus is airborne and spreading, requiring anyone stepping outside to wear gas masks. The rest of the house is sealed and Paul has a particular set of guidelines, processes, and rules he follows in order to ensure the safety of his family. When a man named Will (Christopher Abbott) breaks into the house, Paul defends his home, knocks him unconscious, and ties him to a tree outside. But after a while, Paul softens to Will and eventually invites Will and his family to live with his family. The more people, the more defense they have against whatever the threats are outside. After a series of events, the seal is breached and it is possible that someone got infected, causing the breakdown of Paul’s structured life and impending doom for all of them.
This film hinges on what filmmaker Trey Edwards Shults does not tell you. How did the virus start? Is society destroyed or has the damage been fixed? How did Paul and his family come together? Is Travis, a young black man, actually the son of Paul (a white man) or is this a hodge-podge family whittled together after the apocalypse? Is Will trustworthy? Most of these questions are left unanswered resulting in a highly compact and no-frills storytelling experience that I appreciated. It’s interesting to see practically all of the fat trimmed from this movie bone and have it simply tell a story of palpable paranoia and undeniable tension. It is about the family, the house, and the threat outside. The story never leaves the family, the house, and the surrounding woods. And because the film has such a talented cast, this gives everyone a shot at flexing their acting muscles to their capacity to carry the entire movie and the cast does so amazingly. Edgerton plays the morose and cautious yet strong willed head of the family. Travis is the outlying factor with all of the random challenges that come with being a youth testing the waters on how far he can stray from this family and its rules before they break in a way all teens do. Abbot is both sympathetic and suspicious at times, and even in the end, you don’t know what exactly is truthful or not about the stories he tells Paul. Through these interactions comes the tension and with an unknown and invisible threat outside, without these strong performances, this film would fall completely apart.
That said, I’ve seen some reviewers go out of their way to defend IT COMES AT NIGHT and I don’t feel as a reviewer I have to do that. A movie should stand on its own and the “those who don’t get it are just dummies” attitude just doesn’t fly with me. The “IT” in IT COMES AT NIGHT is not a monster as the trailer and title indicates. “IT” is the darkness, the fear, the paranoia, the unhampered imagination that looks into the dark and sees all kinds of evils. “IT” is the nightmare we have and the fear that keeps us from trusting one another. Shults is clear with this in the film, though the trailers suggest otherwise. Sure, this is the marketing department’s fault and not particularly the filmmaker’s, but if you’re going into this film hoping to see monsters, zombies, or infectoids running or schlumping after screaming survivors, you’ll be disappointed once the lights go up. But the marketing department can only have so much of the blame as some might think that the intended obtuseness of IT COMES AT NIGHT with all of its unanswered questions and intentionally vague title is simply trying to be the smart film in the room, batting down those who want more details as being ignorant. While I was satisfied with the story that was presented, I’m saying there is an audience, and sadly, that is the audience who will be going out to theaters to see this one, who are going to be pissed at the monster-less movie playing on the screen. Plain and simple, those who like things explained. Those who like a comedic jump scare to release the build-up of tension every five minutes. Those who want a monster to blame for the evils that happen in this film. All of them are going to feel gypped by IT COMES AT NIGHT.
Still, if you thirst for an entire hour twenty of film with tension ratcheted up to painful levels, unbelievably dark shadows that threaten despair, destruction, and absolute terror, top tier acting from a cast to die for, and dialog/story with teeth that shred into humanity’s most common weaknesses then IT COMES AT NIGHT will fill your cup and then some. The mood of this film is as heavy as it comes. There are some gruesome effects scenes of those infected that will get under your skin and the nightmare imagery definitely hit the target. Just don’t come looking for answers. Come looking for a barebones tale of the ultimate in paranoia and your takeaway will be plentiful.
THE 2016-2017 COUNTDOWN!
#12 – IT COMES AT NIGHT
#13 – THE BLACKCOAT’S DAUGHTER
#14 – THE SIMILARS
#15 – HOWL
#16 – SEOUL STATION
#17 – THE TRANSFIGURATION
#18 – THE GREASY STRANGLER
#19 – I AM THE PRETTY THING IN THE HOUSE
#20 – ANNABELLE 2: CREATION
#21 – SPLIT
#22— TRASH FIRE
#23 – 47 METERS DOWN
#24 – HELL HOUSE LLC
#25 – THE SUBLET
#26 – PATCHWORK
#27 – IT STAINS THE SANDS RED
#28 – GERALD’S GAME
#29 – LAKE BODOM
#30 – NIGHT OF SOMETHING STRANGE
#31 – THE EVIL WITHIN
M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.
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