Review: It Comes at Night

Last Updated on August 5, 2021

Originally reviewed for the Overlook Film Festival

PLOT: Two families band together in the aftermath of a horrific plague, trying to survive day-to-day in a world where compassion can be the greatest weakness of all.

REVIEW: IT COMES AT NIGHT is the movie that will put “The Overlook Film Festival” on the map. A secret screening, this much-anticipated film beat it’s upbeat, genre audience in a state of shock, but did so without resorting to cheap scares or gore. Rather, IT COMES AT NIGHT does something more sinister, in that it puts you right in the shoes of good people forced to do monstrous things in order to survive, illustrating one of the great truths of genre cinema – that the greatest threat still comes from other people.

Produced by A24, a company that’s had tremendous success with elevated genre, including THE WITCH and EX-MACHINA, the beautiful, evocative IT COMES AT NIGHT certainly has the potential to be a breakout for the company, as it’s the absolute antithesis of the summer blockbusters it’s going up against, with the horror being psychological, in that no matter how viciously anyone acts, you know – maybe even hope – that in a similar situation you’d do the same.

Written and directed by Trey Edward Shults, who previously directed the art-house hit KRISHA, IT COMES AT NIGHT is a confident, assuredly-assembled second feature – no small feat as he tackles heady subject matter. In order to save the film, I won’t go too much into the plot, suffice to say in this world, a plague-like illness has swept through the population, and one family (Joel Edgerton, Carmen Ejogo & Kelvin Harrison Jr) is forced to team with another (Christopher Abbott & Riley Keough) to survive, even if there’s always the threat that some balance of power has to be maintained between the two alphas, Edgerton and Abbott.

Both men are superb, with Edgerton also producing. This is shattering on the same level his own THE GIFT was, and anyone that liked that one would be well advised to check this out. Abbott’s got a really solid part too as the young family man, rough-edged in the same way his lead in JAMES WHITE was, but given a family man sensibility that’s new – making this arguably his most mature performance to date. Carmen Ejogo and Riley Keough are wonderful as the wives, but they do get short-shift a bit next to Edgerton-Abbott, although Keough’s climactic scene might be the best in the film.

However, the big breakout star is Kelvin Harrison Jr as Edgerton and Ejogo’s teenaged son. A compassionate guy, this is what makes him almost a threat to his family, as he wants to do right by everyone, and theyway his beloved dog is his only real solace leads to more than a few heartbreaking moments.

But is is scary? I’d call it more unsettling than straight horror, although there’s an ongoing motif about Harrison being haunted by nightmares, which are truly shocking to watch and intriguingly photographed in a different aspect ratio, 1:85:1 as opposed to the 2:35:1 scope of the rest of the film. It’s a subtle but effective touch. Shults’s team from KRISHA, including composer Brian McOmber and DP Drew Daniels join him here, and do excellent work. In the Q&A, Shults mentioned working on MIDNIGHT SPECIAL, and that Jeff Nichols got him Edgerton, and his sensibility is similar in some ways, as this is a deceptively quiet, introspective film, and a slow burn. The payoff is big, but the journey is never less than absorbing, and this, along with GET OUT, proves that horror as a genre for legit A-level work is back in full-force.


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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.