Keep up-to-date on your favourite artists and movies, track gig and release dates, and join in the conversation.
From zombie mutants to psychological terrors, click here to check out SWITCH's reviews from this year's Fantastic Film Festival!x
review, It Comes At Night, It, Comes, At, Night, film, movie, latest movies, new movie, movie ratings, current movie reviews, latest films, recent movies, current movies, movie critics, new movie reviews, latest movie reviews, latest movies out, the latest movies, review film, latest cinema releases, Australian reviews, cinema, cinema reviews, Joel Edgerton, Riley Keough, Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo, Kelvin Harrison, Griffin Robert Faulkner, David Pendleton, Mick O'Rourke, Chase Joliet, Mikey, Trey Edward Shults, Horror, Mystery film rating




By Daniel Lammin
3rd July 2017

With big-budget horror mostly languishing, the recent successes in the genre have come from independent filmmakers, smaller studios fostering unique voices and emerging talents. It has also been the case in the past that bursts of great horror films align with periods of political and social uncertainty. It’s in the spirit of both these circumstances that writer/director Trey Edward Shults delivers his second film after his acclaimed debut ‘Krisha’ (2015), in the form of a claustrophobic nightmare of great technical prowess. However, are the aesthetics of ‘It Comes At Night’ enough to set it up against the contemporary horror classics?

Teenager Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr) lives with his father Paul (Joel Edgerton) and his mother Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) in a remote farmhouse, secure and isolated after some sort of apocalyptic virus has started to spread. They have removed themselves from the world crumbling down outside to keep safe and stay alive. That security is threatened though when Will (Christopher Abbott) and Kim (Riley Keough) come asking for help with their young son. But will offering assistance put all of them at risk from whatever it is that threatens them?

If you were to look at ‘It Comes At Night’ from a purely technical perspective, it would be a slam dunk. Shults’ command of tone and tension is often exquisite, permeating the film with a palpable sense of dread and immediacy. Drew Daniels’ cinematography is masterful, an unnerving visual symphony is shadows and light, where any piece of negative space pulses with potential. It is this principle - the sense of the impending ‘something’ - that gives the film its pulse, driving it towards the climax we assume is coming. Shults’ screenplay, sparse and unrelentingly oppressive, lays a series of clues and unusual happenings that keep you arrested to the screen, and especially through the eyes of Travis, both fascinated and terrified as to their meaning and outcome. The best horror films work when the storyteller takes their time setting everything up, putting all the pieces carefully in place before bringing them crashing down and revealing the infernal mechanisms that have been there all along.


The problem is, the "build-up" is all this film seems to be. Those clues and unusual happenings never actually go anywhere, so that when the resolution comes, it leaves you feeling unsatisfied and confused. That isn’t to say that the film needs to answer all its questions (a film like ‘It Follows’ manages to remain ambiguous and satisfying), but Shults doesn’t answer the mystery that he sets up. He instead goes for a frenetic and violent eruption in the final minutes of the film that don’t fulfil any promise made by everything that has lead up to it. Perhaps its purpose is to be a comment on human nature in crisis or a kind of socio-political allegory, but the film doesn’t land either of those concepts well enough to make its intentions clear. There’s also the very palpable sense of another outside presence in the film (sculpted so beautifully in the film’s strongest sequence involving Travis’ dog Stanley), but that presence is never accounted for or further explored. This may sound like a criticism of the concept of the ambiguous ending, but that trope is tricky to accomplish. When successful, it can leave you breathless and reeling. In this case however, it just leaves you cold and confused, and wondering why you were asked to endure an hour and a half of unrelenting bleakness and tension. Shults may maintain that bleakness beautifully, but he can’t seem to justify its existence. Consequently, all the incredible aesthetic accomplishments of the film end up feeling derivative, evoking the tone and texture of far better horror films of late like ‘The Witch’ or ’10 Cloverfield Lane’.

Perhaps its purpose is to be a comment on human nature in crisis or a kind of socio-political allegory, but the film doesn’t land either of those concepts well enough to make its intentions clear.

The screenplay doesn’t provide much more than sketches for the talented cast to play with, but some are able to transcend this. Kelvin Harrison Jr is tremendous as Travis, delivering a performance full of heart and hope, tinged with sadness and blind terror. The heart of the film is in his performance, and whatever the actions of the other characters, he is the one we wish the best for. Joel Edgerton is fine as Paul, but we've seen this character from him before (even from parts he has written for himself) and it’s starting to become a bit old-hat. Carmen Ejogo and Riley Keough are lovely to watch but aren’t around enough to really make an impact, and you can’t shake the feeling that Christopher Abbott is just playing a narrative cypher until the point where you realise he probably isn’t.

For the majority of ‘It Comes At Night’, I was totally behind it. The craft is impeccable and its evocation of genuinely palpable tension and dread a demonstration of Trey Edward Shults as a talented director. However, by essentially going nowhere and leaving way too many nagging, frustrating holes in the plot unfulfilled, the entire film comes apart like a dropped ball of string in its final minutes. Maybe there’s some hidden meaning in there that I’m missing, but the film didn’t give me enough of the tools to find it. Even its name is a promise of something the film isn’t - in the end, there doesn’t seem to be anything out there in the night except a bunch of hollow bumps.

RELEASE DATE: 06/07/2017
RUN TIME: 1h 32m
CAST: Joel Edgerton
Riley Keough
Christopher Abbott
Carmen Ejogo
Kelvin Harrison
Griffin Robert Faulkner
David Pendleton
Mick O'Rourke
Chase Joliet
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Trey Edward Shults
PRODUCERS: David Kaplan
Andrea Roa
Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears - A global adventure for the legendary lady detective
TRENDINGWIN MISS FISHER AND THE CRYPT OF TEARSA global adventure for the legendary lady detective
The Wishmas Tree - A magical experience for the whole family
TRENDINGWIN THE WISHMAS TREEA magical experience for the whole family
In My Blood It Runs - An eye-opening tale of struggling Indigenous youth
TRENDINGIN MY BLOOD IT RUNSAn eye-opening tale of struggling Indigenous youth
Children of the Sea - Sunk by a soggy script
The Professor and the Madman - Mel Gibson's dictionary origin story a dry read
TRENDINGTHE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMANMel Gibson's dictionary origin story a dry read
Standing Up For Sunny - A comedy without the comedy but very sweet
TRENDINGSTANDING UP FOR SUNNYA comedy without the comedy but very sweet
Chained for Life - The aesthetics of acting
TRENDINGCHAINED FOR LIFEThe aesthetics of acting
Happy Ending - An extra-wrinkly sex comedy
TRENDINGHAPPY ENDINGAn extra-wrinkly sex comedy
Leftover Women - Feminists beware, this one's a blood boiler
TRENDINGLEFTOVER WOMENFeminists beware, this one's a blood boiler
Under The Silver Lake - Not so deep
Fantastic Film Festival Australia 2020 - The reviews
A Serial Killer's Guide to Life - A gory and funny road trip of self-discovery
TRENDINGA SERIAL KILLER'S GUIDE TO LIFEA gory and funny road trip of self-discovery
A Guide to Second Date Sex - A quintessentially awkward British romantic comedy
TRENDINGA GUIDE TO SECOND DATE SEXA quintessentially awkward British romantic comedy
NT Live: Fleabag - The birth of Phoebe Waller-Bridge's masterwork
TRENDINGNT LIVE: FLEABAGThe birth of Phoebe Waller-Bridge's masterwork
Bangla - A truly beautiful mess
TRENDINGBANGLAA truly beautiful mess
Dilili in Paris - A timely animated adventure
TRENDINGDILILI IN PARISA timely animated adventure
Blue - A thought-provoking underwater journey
TRENDINGBLUEA thought-provoking underwater journey
Gallipoli - A powerful and important film remembered
TRENDINGGALLIPOLIA powerful and important film remembered
The Swallows of Kabul - Unflinching and gorgeously animated
TRENDINGTHE SWALLOWS OF KABULUnflinching and gorgeously animated
Portrait of a Lady on Fire - A perfect film on the language of desire
TRENDINGPORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIREA perfect film on the language of desire
© 2011 - 2020 midnightproductions
All rights reserved

Support SWITCH | Disclaimer | Contact Us