IT COMES AT NIGHT, US, 2017. Starring Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo, Riley Keough, Kelvin Harrison Jr, Griffin Robert Faulkner. Directed by Trey Edward Shults. 91 minutes. Rated MA (Strong themes and violence).
Given some news from the United States where angry patrons have denounced and/or walked out of this film because they were waiting for “it” to arrive, a worthwhile comment is that this is a psychological drama, with some overtones of horror, not for the multiplex audience but more for arthouse audiences. This is nothing of a monster-fest but what might be called a serious imagining of the human condition in crisis circumstances.
Actually, it is a bit hard to work out what the title actually means. During the film and at the end we are asking ourselves what “it” actually is. While much of the film is at night, there is also a great deal of daylight.
Nevertheless, this is a very well acted film, a film with a great deal of atmosphere, a great deal of tension. Something drastic has occurred in major North American cities, making people flee from the cities, making them live in isolation in the woods, water and food is scarce, no electricity or communications. The drama at the opening of the film consists of a man, obviously highly infected with some mysterious disease, his relatives wearing gas masks, acknowledging his death, burying and burning him.
Within the house, the family, consisting of father, Paul, Joel Edgerton, his wife Sarah, Carmen Ejogo, and their 17-year-old son Travis, Kenneth Harrison Jr, can take off their masks, sit rather solemnly, wondering what is going to happen and how they will cope. Suddenly, there is a banging at the door, someone trying to get in and they treat him with utmost suspicion.
With this atmosphere and mystery, and with the man identifying himself, looking for refuge for himself and his wife and son, the film shifts into a movement away from paranoia (and one reviewer did make the remark that the film was about post-apocalyptic paranoia – was this the “it”?) and an attempt for the families to live together.
Joel Edgerton is a former history teacher taking on patriarchal responsibilities (and he and his wife are in a mixed race marriage). The other interesting character is the son, Travis, who experiences strange dreams, probably some premonitions about what might come.
As indicated by the angry responses of American horror and monster fans, the film leaves us with the mystery, the paranoia, the suspicions, the violence, and the uncertainty of how to survive in a world turned extraordinarily mysterious.
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Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.