I headed into ‘It Comes At Night’ in a similar way to when I saw ‘Get Out‘ a few months back – having seen a lot of positive four or five star buzz about it on my news feeds, but without actually seeing the trailer. I skimmed a couple of reviews this time, just to get a rough idea of what I was in for, and one of the words which seemed to crop up on a number of them was ‘unsettling’. Well, that sold it for me! Get Out is my favourite movie of the year so far, and I felt that my enjoyment of seeing that had been greatly improved having not seen the trailer, and with no expectations. So, I went into ‘It Comes At Night’ hoping for a similar experience.
The opening scene sets the tone for what’s to come. A sick old man listens to his daughter Sarah tell him she loves him. She’s wearing a protective gas mask, as are her husband and son. Husband Paul and son Travis then take grandpa out of the cabin they’re in, into the woods where they proceed to wrap him up in a sheet, shoot him in the head, roll him into a ditch and set fire to him. It becomes apparent that we’re in a post apocalyptic world where some kind of plague has taken hold, and Grandpa had unfortunately become infected. We’re not shown any TV news footage, we don’t hear any radio broadcast of any kind and there aren’t any zombies or infected people wandering around. There’s just this small family, out in the middle of nowhere and with no idea what state the rest of the world is currently in or how bad things are. They keep their cabin boarded up, with only one locked door for entry. They lead a lonely, basic existence, taking no chances with whatever is going on out in the rest of the world.
And then one night they’re awoken by somebody breaking in downstairs. A man who claims he thought the place was empty. He claims to be only out scavenging for water for his family. His name is Will and he says that he’s left his wife and young son behind some 50 miles away and is only interested in providing for them. Paul and his family don’t know whether to believe him and this feeling of uncertainty, paranoia and tension is something which takes hold and continues throughout the entire movie. Not knowing if Will is infected or not, they tie him to a tree overnight to see if infection sets in. When it doesn’t, they come to an understanding and agree to go and get Wills family and bring them back to the safety of the cabin. The family seem to integrate well, falling in line with Pauls strict routine of eating, washing and going to the toilet, and all seems to be going well for a while.
Sadly, I think the expectation of an experience similar to ‘Get Out’ affected my overall enjoyment of the movie. Sure I was tense and on edge for pretty much the whole movie, but I guess I was expecting it all to build up to something much more. It did reach a pretty intense finale of sorts, but then it just seemed to fizzle out until the credits rolled and a sense of overall disappointment set in. I don’t think I was the only one either. As I stood to leave the cinema, the guy across the aisle from me, along with a couple of others seated nearby, all kind of looked at each other in disbelief and with a ‘WTF?!’ expression. It was definitely a good movie, which deserves to be seen, but it just didn’t leave that much of a lasting impression on me.