I was so pumped for Writer/Director Trey Edward Shults thriller It Comes At Night when I first read about it in Entertainment Weekly. Taking from his personal life, personal trauma, and putting it into a film that was then getting rave reviews sounded exactly like what this summer movie season needed.
It’s unclear if it was studio involvement or an idea that was only half baked but a few powerful images and a criminally wasted performance by Joel Edgerton add up to a 91 minute movie that feels like a four hour endurance match in ever lowering expectations and crushed hopes.
An unknown threat has gripped the world. Akin to a zombie apocalypse Paul (Joel Edgerton) is trying to keep his wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) safe in their secure and insanely well prepared family home. An outsider stumbles on the family and Paul is understandably suspicious. A friendship is formed but Paul never fully lets go of his paranoia.
I’ll start with the positive aspects of the film. Like I said in the opening, I was very excited for this. The opening is strong. Very strong. Great visuals and a moment that really pulls at your heartstrings. It gets you into the mindset of the family right away. The movie grabs you and the tension keeps you… momentarily.
About twelve minutes into the movie you’ll turn to whoever you’re sitting with, whether it’s your best friend, significant other, or family pet, and one of the two of you will speak first. The conversation will be a very accurate map of the rest of the entire movie. That is sad enough but predictable doesn’t always mean bad. Shutter Island was good despite the ending being spoiled in the nine months of trailers leading up to the delayed release.
The tension throughout the movie is palpable. Even more impressive since, as previously stated, the movie is so predictable. Sadly as the movie reaches its climax the tension doesn’t lead to a pay off for the audience. The tension culminates in a stupidly large plot hole that is never explained, implied or covered. Information is given for the sake of getting to the movies message, far from the original point Shults outlined in interviews, regardless of it fitting into the movie or not. In this case, not.
Despite falling incredibly short as a movie It Comes At Night is proof of one solid thing. Movie reviews as a whole have changed. Look out for buzz words like ‘relevant’ when looking into a movie. It seems in today’s day and age if a movie has an agenda it will get rave reviews; regardless of how ham fisted and predictable.
Having a message, something to say, agenda, whatever is not bad in itself. It’s just all too often a movie is loosely formed with a single message or even reductive line of dialogue in mind. The movie gets there, inorganically, and we are supposed to praise the film maker for having the balls to say what the majority of moviegoers would agree with anyway. No thank you.
If you want to make a movie and have a message. Make a good movie first. Furthermore, make sure your message actually gets the point across that you want. Without delving too deep into spoilers, though I’d strongly advise against seeing this movie, the message in It Comes At Night is obvious in where it’s going but when it gets there is falters on the landing.
The director, studio, and editors all need to line up and apologize to Joel Edgerton. Edgerton is an astounding actor who does an impeccable job in this mess of a movie. If his performance was transported into something that got acclaim for storytelling and film making more than being ‘chillingly relevant’ he would be an Oscar contender for sure.
It Comes At Night is a ninety minute snooze fest that will consume your entire evening in its poor execution and horrible delivery of an obvious message that seems to forget its own point. Despite being technically well made and well acted the movie itself is abysmal.