Welcome to the Back-Burner Reviews! Here, I like to bring up movies that haven’t hit the mainstream vein of blockbuster movies you’ll see in theaters, but that doesn’t mean these are not worth watching. Usually indie films and low-key lower budget movies are placed on the back-burner but I’m here to convince you this is a movie worth watching.
Yes, Lemons describes this movie well. It packs a punch at the end even if its deliberate, 4/4 metronome-like pace can cause quite a stir in you. You want to go Presto but it gives you Adagio until the end hits you with four or five staccatos that will sober you rather than excite you. This is the nature of this movie termed a “horror thriller” which is poor marketing unless you recall horror being Dante’s Inferno or The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. If not, then maybe its best to think of this movie in terms of a psychological horror film that lacks the blood and gore, but provides a simple plot device to drive these characters to insane desperate state of minds.
The plot is simple…very simple. You have a disease that has been causing the apocalypse and two families converge wherein they attempt to live together but are driven mad by paranoia and fear. The disease is simply a plot device to evoke the emotions and actions of its characters and we can relate because diseases scare us right now. Back then demons and ghosts and nuclear fall out scared us so they made horror movies using them as their plot device, but here in It Comes at Night we get the disease and that’s all we know about it. It has a plague like affect on its victims and the artistic direction of the film leaves more to the imagination. One of the shots lingers on a painting of the plague occurring in England back in the Middle Ages. We linger here more than on the shots of those when they get sick. Mentally I psyche myself to be more horrified by the idea than the sight of it (something old horror movies actually understood and famously expressed by the Alfred Hitchcock). This is where the movie succeeds as a work of art and thoughtful meditation than as simply entertainment.
The movie is shot with slow camera movements, wide tracking shots, alternating aspect ratios (to tell you whose perspective we’re looking from), shadows cast by strategic lighting, and a sound mixing and editing that does a splendid job of highlighting the faintest steps and outside noises. The director wants us to focus on the outside while we’re trapped inside. No one is allowed to go outside and the anxiety of knowing what’s out there strains us. Our ears are perked by the slightest sound, or eyes straining for the faintest glimpse of shadows and lights off the wall and through the window. The movie then switches the focus as the fear of what’s outside may now be inside the house.
It Comes At Night focuses a lot of its time on the outside to ratchet up the fear until you realize the problem may reside in the people around you. There is a nauseating amount of paranoia and fear that creeps in until it amounts into a violent and excruciatingly emotional climax that in an instant provides a welcome reprieve from the deliberate pace but introduces raw emotions and the realization of what such a fear and paranoia can create. The timeless token of wisdom is certainly true, that our paranoia and fear usually creates the problem. Anticipation asks for the shoe to drop, for the problem to occur. Our sensations and senses become hyper-sensitive to every little thing. Something we see in someone that would be unimportant in everyday life becomes a matter of life and death for its the question of whether or not we can trust them during the apocalypse.
It Comes At Night is something to view once or twice, depending on if you can understand the ending, but it asks some interesting questions and it realistically puts you in the apocalypse where you don’t know who to trust. Many apocalyptic movies have these problems where the characters meet certain people whom they rather kill, team up with, or leave behind and afterwards the’re back into the action trying to survive, solve some problem, or serve the next action set piece. It Comes At Night focuses on that small, tiny, little part of the story where a group of survivors meet another group of survivors and it asks what would really happen?
It’s lemons for its simplicity but sour and bitter taste that leaves you shocked and vividly aware of this problem with humanity’s mutated nature of fear that although meant to serve as a wonderful tool of survival can also be a dangerous weapon if unchecked, one that causes more damage than you can ever realize.