In the ultimate bit of self-reflection, the 2017 joint, It Comes at Night, asks YOU to crawl in to your cramped psyche and answer the darkest of all questions…the individual or the collective? This concurrent apocalyptic thriller immediately unfolds with a vague sickness, oily mucus, and rashy skin brought to bear on a family stuck, or purposefully relocated to the woods. The family is forced to deal with the infection of the patriarch, and not wanting to risk further infection, they employ operation immolation. Poof. Grandpa is gone. Crisis solved. Not so fast.
Are they hiding from the sickness? Hiding from the societal breakdown brought on by the sickness? Hiding from the fear that they’re sick and avoiding contamination of others? Unclear.
While It Comes at Night is short on answers and exposition, this character-driven flick makes very clear that family is paramount, sickness is not an option, and outsiders are not welcome. Forced to cope with these questions are the remaining family members represented by the firm but fair father, the meek and morally conscious son, and the earnest and foundational mother. Each uses daily routine and survival as their continued coping mechanism in their own made-up dystopian micro-society.
The family does well. Plans well. They’re organized, thoughtful, and they have a penchant for safety and survival. Until…they’re forced to contend with outsiders. One-third of the way into the film, the father and son encounter an individual and after little Guantanamo torture session, they bring the individual, his wife and their son in to the micro-community. Family one expresses the importance of safety, rules, and order as their mode of survival. Family two agrees and temporary harmony is brought to the tough but fair household.
As both families now go about their routines, the most cautionary of all cautionary tales starts to manifest itself – don’t trust outsiders. Paranoia strikes. There’s constant dreams of disease. And the boarded up claustrophobia begins to tear at the families. In the final act, the film quickly devolves in a shocking and immediate way. The paranoia reaches a fever (no disease pun intended) pitch and each family is forced to contend with the fact that only family members matter and outsiders are just that – outsiders.
Make no mistake, this is a taught thriller chocked full of action and intrigue. That said, the horror is visceral and not supernatural. The violence is real, shocking, and saddening. Taken together, It Comes at Night really is a metaphor for today’s societal woes, the inability to trust others, and the uncaring way in which we’re fed our stove-piped opinions. A solid film for sure, but one devoid of exposition – and weirdly never answers the question – What comes at night?
It Comes at Night is Rated R and is streaming on Netflix.