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It Comes at Night

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My favorite thing about It Comes at Night is that it made me think of the old song by Them (Van Morrison), “Here Comes the Night.” I pulled out that album from 1965 and it’s been spinning on my record player the last few weeks.

It was smart that writer/director Trey Edward Shults (Krisha) got Joel Edgerton in the lead. He’s a terrific actor (check him out in his brother’s movie “The Square” one of the best films I’ve ever seen). Edgerton can pull off the perfect blend of vulnerable and stoic. He’s part of an interracial family which normally wouldn’t even register with me. But with the interesting horror movie Get Out a few months back…and with Edgerton being in a controversial interracial marriage in Loving…you start thinking about whether this movie is trying to show us that for a specific reason the way those pictures were.

You also start thinking about movies that had similar paranoia themes that were done so much better: The Thing, 10 Cloverfield Lane, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, etc. It’s a shame, because the setup is interesting enough, but then the movie doesn’t go anywhere. They leave many unanswered questions that will frustrate everyone that sees it.

There’s some kind of plague that has killed lots of people. The movie even starts with us seeing the results of what happens, and it’s powerful. We’re also led to believe that “something” could come and attack you, so the house has to be boarded up. Yet it doesn’t explain why when they hear a noise outside at night, they take the kerosene lantern and go looking around the house. It’s one of many dumb decisions characters make, and for a movie that isn’t going for straight horror but something bigger…that’s a mistake.

Wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) never really says a lot. Perhaps that can be because they oft her dad in the beginning and she’s still ticked about that. I think it’s because Shults went for a minimalist script.

The son is played by Kelvin Harrison, Jr. He gives a terrific performance as a curious and frustrated teenager, trying his best to deal with this plight.

In one scene that confused my wife and I — their house/bunker is being broken into in the middle of the night. Just as Will (Christopher Abbott) busts the door down, the father and son shoot him. Well, we thought they did. Yet he doesn’t have a single wound. So they drag him out and tie him to a tree and interrogate him the following day.

It turns out he has a family (Riley Keough, Griffin Robert Faulkner), and chickens. They decide they can share supplies and having more people might make it easier to protect the house.

The trailers make this look like a horror film, but you might only jump out of your seat once, and that’s a dream. Sure, the house looks creepy, and some of the shots by lantern are interesting. The cinematographer gets credit for that. I’ll also even give a shout-out to the score by Brian McOmber. It can be scary at times, and emotional at other times.

Among the many things that were problematic with this movie was how the teenager is always nosing around the house at night, yet his parents never wake up. Even if you’re a deep sleeper, if you’re living in a time where your house has to be boarded up because the only other humans on the planet will try to kill you — wouldn’t you wake up with every creak of a floorboard, or sound of a door opening?

When the movie ended, with virtually none of the questions we had being answered — the entire audience of movie critics I was watching this with groaned with disappointment. It’s surprising to see other critics across the country praising this.

This gets 1 ½ stars out of 5.