It Comes At Night — horror with an existential twist

If you’ve found the genre to be stale lately, then you’re in for a breath of fresh air

(Image courtesy of A24)

By: Alex Bloom

It Comes At Night (directed by Trey Edward Shults) is a gripping horror movie that will leave you feeling deeply disturbed, without quite terrifying you. It isn’t the kind of movie that has you hiding under the sheets, guessing if a monster is lurking under your bed. The film has its own brand of horror: one that teases at what could be and crawls further under your skin as the story unfolds.

     The story follows teenager Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) and his parents (played by Joel Edgerton and Carmen Ejogo), as they try to survive a mysterious apocalypse that has forced humanity to the fringes of their former civilization. Almost the entirety of the film takes place in the family’s home, which seems to be far enough away from the city to have escaped most of the chaos of the apocalypse. All the entrances to the home have been boarded up and reinforced, aside from a single red door. Travis’ parents have a rule that this door must remain locked at all times and that no one is to go outside at night unless it is an emergency. Even in the daytime, Travis is told not to venture outside alone, even with his revolver and his dog at his side. No one is allowed to leave without a gas mask and gloves on. It is clear that access to food and water is a struggle and humanity has already turned on itself.

     It is not the plot, however, that sets It Comes At Night apart; it’s the raw realism that the film maintains throughout its runtime. The relationships between the characters are believable, and the choices they make are reasonable. The film captures the ugliness that humans are capable of without glamorizing, judging, or justifying it. Yet the film also highlights human compassion. It is clear that all the choices the characters make are out of love for their own families, even when the results are tragic.

     It Comes At Night redefines the apocalypse genre, cleverly skirting its tropes. It is not just a simple question of Travis and his family’s survival, but an examination of the human condition. It asks the questions of how far we’re willing to go to survive, and at what point does it stop being worth it. What is it that gives meaning to our lives and gives us the will to fight for them?

     It Comes At Night is as beautiful as it is ugly. It is a film that will have you pondering the nature of morality, human beings, and, ultimately, life itself. I can’t recommend this movie enough, even for those who don’t typically like horror. That being said, I will warn that it is extremely upsetting in more ways than one. There were several moments where I felt physically ill watching it.