It Comes at Night (2017)

<strong class="MovieTitle">It Comes at Night</strong> (2017)

(Netflix Streaming, August 2018) Despite my best intentions, I continue to have a hit-and-miss relationship with critically acclaimed horror movies. Sometimes I fully align and claim the film’s greatness to the ends of the Earth (that’s you, Babadook), sometimes I keep staring at the screen thinking that I’ve missed something (that’s you, VVitch). It Comes at Night falls squarely in the second category: While others have praised its take on the aftermath of a viral apocalypse, I kept wondering until the end credits what was so special about the film. It’s certainly not the premise, which is undistinguishable from dozens of other movies in just the past few years. It’s not the darker-than-black tone with no likely survivors, as that has become a solid horror cliché. It’s certainly not the pacing: saddled with a slow, deliberate and agonizing rhythm: It Comes at Night feels interminable even at 91 minutes. The acting talent isn’t bad (with special notice to Joel Edgerton and a thoroughly de-glammed Carmen Ejogo) and there’s clearly an intentional aesthetic at work from writer/director Trey Edward Shults in the way it shows a family disintegrating thanks to external and internal pressures. But considering the everybody-dies ending, the large number of unexplained ambiguities and the misanthropic tone, all kinds of viewers—casual and jaded alike—may come to feel that it asks too much in return of very little payoff. I’ll respect the intention behind such a measured psychological horror movie far more readily than a shlockfest, but the end result is depressingly similar: It Comes at Night is a film that doesn’t feel as if it’s worth watching. Certainly not twice, maybe not even once.

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