Tuesday, June 13, 2017

It Comes at Night

While a fatal contagious disease ravages the outside world, former teacher Paul, his wife Sarah, and their 17 year old son Travis live in a remote house. They have strict rules and procedures for how to interact with the outside world, when to gather supplies, how to do chores, how much food to eat, etc. Their home is invaded by a lone man and they take the necessary precautions to make sure he isn't infected. His name is Will and claims to have a healthy son and wife in a house miles away. Paul goes with him to pick them up along with their farm animals to bring them back, cautious and suspicious the whole way. Is Will as he seems? Can Paul truly trust anyone outside of his own family?

It Comes at Night has polarizing reactions from crowds that witnessed myself and heard from other people. At the end of the film, someone behind me shouted "Boooooooring" and others agreed. It has a deceptive title, advertising that don't match the tone, and a slow, quiet, deliberate pacing. It's definitely not for everyone and I can understand the hate. I loved it. The outside world is not seen, but it's clear based that this is an apocalypse situation where the family is rigid in their rules to protect each other and what's theirs. At the start, Bud, Sarah's father, has somehow contracted the illness, devastating the family. Paul and Travis handle him with care in gas masks, gloves, and other protective clothing. They take him outside, shoot him, burn his body, and finally bury him. Travis is the most affected by the harrowing incident and dreams of his grandfather as a monster and himself becoming infected. Very little is shown of the disease beyond large sores, but they wisely never let it get farther for their own protection. Paul has found a way for them to survive and it has worked when the world around them crumbled. They never go out after dark unless it's an emergency. Each person keeps busy and contributes to shared resources. Life goes on even after tragedy.

When Will shows up, it's the middle of the night and he breaks into their house for food and water. Paul takes every precaution and ties him up outside for a day to make sure he's not infected. When he proves to be compliant and uninfected, Will leads Paul to his house with one mishap. A group of men attack them in the road, forcing Paul to kill them all to keep what's his and his life. This shows how the world is now. Paul isn't wrong to treat Will so badly, constantly training a gun on him and making sure he isn't planning to strike when the moment is right. They return with Paul's family without further incident and they live together in harmony, working together, for a while after that until one fateful night. It's hard to blame either side for what happens. Both are looking to protect their families and no matter how nicely they act together, trust can never truly be given anymore. Either side suspects the other of wanting to take all they have or wanting to do harm no matter how well intentioned. Travis sits in the middle of all of this as the most innocent, the most willing to trust and keep his humanity. He sits on the cusp of adulthood with all the hope in the world. The tragic ending for both sides shows that his hope has no place anymore.

It Comes at Night has very little music and builds tension throughout the film until the heartbreaking resolution. Neither side comes away unscathed and the most innocent people suffer the most. The film is not action packed or fast paced, but the emotions and the dimensions of all the characters make it one of the most realistic apocalypse movies I've seen. Some accuse it of being more of a drama as it focuses on the characters and their relationships over the disease or its horror elements. I think this take makes it even more horrific because these people seem real due to the writing and the excellent performances on all sides plus the lack of clear answers. I can understand each person's motivation which makes the ending all the more tragic. The ending scene shows the same as earlier in the film, that life goes on even after loss.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

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