When it comes to horror movies, expectations can mean everything. I suppose that can be said with any genre but it feels like the weight is heavier when it comes to these types of films. As it stands, a good horror movie is hard to come by. Expect too much and you’re often left feeling disappointed (A Cure for Wellness (2016)). Come in without a care in the world and you just might leave with a big satisfying smile on your face (Don’t Breathe (2016)). Even ones that are seen as great hidden gems initially (It Follows (2014)) can fall out of favor once buzz gets so loud that audiences feel compelled to see it because of what they’ve heard or read. How does one weed through all of this mess to find out what they should and shouldn’t waste their time/money on? Let’s use It Comes at Night as a prime example for this spontaneous case study. I say spontaneous because it was not my intent when I started writing this review.
There is something going in the world that isn’t quite right. People are developing a sickness of which death appears to be the only “cure”. One family will stop at nothing to keep the ones that they love safe from infection. Paul (Joel Edgerton) lives in a house in a desolate area in the woods in the hopes of lowering their risk of danger. The home now consists of just two people aside from Paul. His wife, Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and their son, Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) are both capable individuals that can pull their own weight. Complications come a knockin’ when a stranger (Christopher Abbott) ends up in their home. Paranoia runs rampant as the story continues to unfold towards its controversial conclusion.
Director Trey Edward Shults was labeled as a brilliant new filmmaker for Krisha (2015), his directorial debut. Critics loved it and audiences thought is was good as well for the most part. Now comes a totally different genre with zero lightheartedness. It Comes at Night is about as dark and serious as it comes. From the film’s mournful opening scene, never does the mood embrace any semblance of a positive outcome. There’s always “something” just lurking off in the distance and we, as viewers, can only hope for a positive twist.
It Comes at Night is definitely more of a psychological thriller/horror than anything else. Much of the tension experienced comes from what you’re expecting rather than what is seen on the screen. On the plus side, the cast of actors do a darn good job of what they were asked to do. Joel Edgerton is definitely the headliner here but Carmen Ejogo, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Christopher Abbott and Riley Keough are all extremely capable. From that standpoint, their efforts deserve passing marks.
Where this film fails is after the entire body of work is taken into consideration. Consumers are sold a bill of goods that never really comes to fruition. If a product promises 50% more pepperoni, dammit I expect to see some pepperoni. Note to self: don’t write reviews on an empty stomach. The point is, with a title like It Comes at Night, there are certain reasonable expectations that should be met. The plot turns into a big letdown and it’s hard for me recommend that people spend good money knowing fully what’s in store for them. So, so close and yet so far away.
As to why I labeled it as a controversial ending, I suppose you’ll just have to see It Comes at Night and judge for yourselves. You can check this one out in theaters right now.