“It Comes at Night” is a movie that defies classification.
It has been called a horror movie, but that is not what it truly is. It is something more.
The movie opens with a very sick older man. Boils cover his emaciated body.
A father and a teenage son are by his side. Both wear masks and rubber gloves. They load the older man into a wheelbarrow and carry him outside the house.
Paul, the father, shoots the old man. They place his body in a shallow grave. The father (Joel Edgerton) pours gasoline on the body and burns it. The son, Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), watches, trying to keep a grip upon his emotions.
We learn the older man was the boy’s grandfather. The now dead grandfather contracted a disease, which has already claimed much of the population. The disease only takes a day to make someone go from healthy to deathly ill.
The mother of the family, Sarah (Carmen Ejogo), daughter of the now deceased older man, tries to comfort her son. She also needs comfort, but she’s alone with her son and his father in this house.
The family lives a regimented life, working hard to keep the sickness outside.
The house has an “air lock” of sorts. The outer door enters into a small area closed off by an inner door that’s painted red. Within that area, both doors have plastic hanging down.
One night a man (Christopher Abbott) breaks into the “air lock” room. The father, at gunpoint, takes the man and places him outside the house, tied to a tree. The father is waiting for signs of disease to manifest.
After a couple of days, he goes out to the man, guns in hand. He tells the man to convince him that he is not part of some group. The father wants to hear his story in order to decide if he is worth saving.
The man says he is a father as well. His wife and young son are in a house about 50 miles away.
What brought him there was the fact that the house was boarded up and looked abandoned. He wants nothing more than some water to keep his family alive.
The father and mother decide to bring the family into their home. That’s when things get worse.
As time passes, you see the trust needed for these people to survive evaporate. Soon, paranoia and mistrust become central to their relationships.
“It Comes at Night” is directed and written by Trey Edward Shults. This is his second feature.
In this movie, he presents what happens to a culture when there is a lack of trust in the goodness and altruism of others.
As I watched the movie, my first thought was there is no god in this place. A spiritual presence doesn’t exist there; it’s fully devoid of any aspect of love that would come from God.
That meant the characters were living with no resource outside of themselves. That made them guarded and unwilling to connect with someone outside of their tribe or family.
Add that lack of spiritual presence to the guarded nature of the characters and this sets in motion the tragedy that takes place.
I see this movie as a statement on where we are as a people.
The U.S. is divided and we come at this division by not wanting to trust in those that are not of our “stripe.” This lack of trust erodes the basis of the culture, and we become like the characters in the movie. We pull into our groups and are suspect of anyone that is not part of our “family.”
As I stated, this is being sold as a horror film.
The only horror here is that the characters cannot find it within themselves to accept those not part of their tribe as being worthy. That is truly a horror.
Michael Parnell is pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is married and has two boys. His love is for movies, and he can be found in a theater most Fridays.
MPAA Rating: Rated R for violence, disturbing images and language.
Director: Trey Edward Shults.
Writer: Trey Edward Shults.
Cast: Joel Edgerton (Paul), Christopher Abbott (Will), Carmen Ejogo (Sarah), Kelvin Harrison Jr. (Travis).
The film’s website is here.