‘It Comes at Night’ Review: Terror, Tension, and an All-Too-Familiar Tale

Drew Dietsch
Movie Reviews Movies
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3.0
of 5
Review Essentials
  • Immaculate filmmaking
  • Solid characters
  • Full of tension and dread
  • Story is a little too simple
  • Plot is predictable
  • Bleak for the sake of being bleak

A civilization-ending virus. A family struggling to survive. Intruders. New friends. Distrust. Chaos. Death. You’ve seen the story of It Comes at Night in a million different forms, but even though it may seem familiar, there’s more to the story than just the story…

Perfect Construction

It comes at night review
Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) knows that something is out there in the woods...

There’s nothing wrong with a simple tale told extremely well. It Comes at Night is every apocalyptic survival horror movie ever made but with the kind of expert filmmaking those stories rarely get. Writer/director Trey Edward Shults displays an amazing talent that pulls from such classic filmmakers as John Carpenter and Stanley Kubrick. He knows how to turn stark locations into chambers filled with dread. Every hallway and bedroom becomes a pressure cooker of paranoia. When it comes to tension, the movie is a resounding success.

It’s also boosted by solid performances from the entire cast. This isn’t a film that calls for any big, showy moments. You’ll get close to the characters because they feel completely real. That’s tough to pull off in stories that often are, by their very nature, highly unrealistic. Just look at The Walking Dead: a story that has to resort to over-the-top villains in order to continually sell its end of the world scenario. It Comes at Night strips all that away and turns the story into something that is purely character-driven and that makes it work.

A Little Basic

Paul (Joel Edgerton) will do anything to protect his family.

But, there is something so streamlined about It Comes at Night’s plot that prevents it from leaving a lasting impression. There aren’t a whole lot of surprises in store as far as the story is concerned. If you’ve seen any number of pessimistic post-apocalypse films, you aren’t going to get much more here. The movie is basically Night of the Living Dead but it internalizes the threat far more. I don’t want to spoil anything, but the titular “It” is something much more metaphorical than what you might be expecting. That’s probably going to disappoint some viewers, and that’s an understandable reaction. The movie still gives you plenty to chew over but it’s also a little bleak for the sake of being bleak.

Is It Comes at Night Good?

Bud (David Pendleton) visits Travis is a nightmare.

It’s an immaculately crafted film from a director who is at the top of his game, but the script is missing a few key parts to make it something truly special. If you’re a fan of survival horror, indie horror, or well-made character pieces, you’ll find plenty to enjoy. And if you need reminding that the world is a terrible place and it’s probably your fault, this is the film for you.

Drew Dietsch
Drew Dietsch has written for CHUD.com, the News-Press, WhatCulture, and releases a weekly film review podcast, The Drew Reviews Podcast. He'll yak your ear off about horror movies, Jaws, RoboCop, and/or Batman if you let him. www.thedrewreviews.com
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