AND THE DAYTIME ISN’T ALL THAT PLEASANT EITHER
It Comes at Night
Review by Paul Preston
It’s time to start paying attention to everything Joel Edgerton does. The Aussie actor/director/producer has appeared in many, many good projects and if you’re not familiar with them allow me to refresh: Loving, Midnight Special, Warrior, Zero Dark Thirty, Animal Kingdom plus Black Mass (where he was equally as good as, if not better than, Johnny Depp), The Gift (which he also wrote and directed) and the underseen but effective western Jane Got a Gun. Even in films that weren’t universally loved like The Great Gatsby, Edgerton was memorable. I think I’ve successfully set up at the top of this article that I’m a fan.
Edgerton serves as one of the executive producers of the new film from on-the-rise writer/director Trey Edward Shults, who shows such confidence behind the lens of this movie that his first film, Krisha, has jumped to the top of the must-see list for me at home. It Comes at Night is the first of the summer movies (unless you count King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, and who would?) to have the thumbprint of a real director on it. Shults is also listed as co-editor, so there’s no doubt you’re getting a director’s vision here. Soak it in while you can. You usually only see that around the holidays.
It Comes at Night tells the story of a world infected by a “sickness”, and it’ll kill you. Quickly. Edgerton plays a husband and father determined to keep his house safe from those who would bring the sickness in and eventually his character’s essential goodness is put to the test by strangers who need shelter. This is a device used by TV’s The Walking Dead all the time, as factions of zombie apocalypse survivors build some kind of future for themselves and don’t trust anyone to damage it. To complicate matters, Edgerton’s son Travis (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.) is plagued by both insomnia and nightmares, with every night bringing new fear and skepticism as to who should be trusted.
Ultimately, this is the story of a frustrated father willing to do anything to protect his family, and that may come at the cost of his own sanity. I got a little confused as to what exactly would cause the “sickness” to overtake someone. The characters wear gas masks sometimes, sometimes not. In the end, however, it seems Shults is more interested in latching onto humans’ desire for safety and order and upending it. His cast is up for the game.
Besides Edgerton and Harrison, Jr., Carmen Ejogo, Christopher Abbott and Riley Keough round out a cast that smoothly transitions between the highs and lows of living in an unsafe world full of people you can’t trust. And don’t be fooled by Edgerton, he’s delivering an uncluttered and wholly emotional performance that you may overlook because he rarely resorts to bombast – subtlely and lack of pretention always get him (and the films he’s in) great results. For an artist who is so prolific, it’s a shame this will be his only on-screen appearance in 2017.
Surrounding all these performances is an undeniable mood built by the story and maintained by the direction (and Drew Daniels’ exceptional cinematography). It Comes at Night is so stylish (not show-offy, STYLISH) that you don’t feel the overall sense of dread until it’s over, meaning you’re not miserable the entire time you see it – getting caught up in the tension then you’re stuck carrying that around with you for the day – this is not the summer’s feel-good movie.
Directed by: Trey Edward Shults
Release Date: June 9, 2017
Run Time: 91 Minutes