I always try to go into a movie knowing as little about it as possible. This always means trying to avoid any knowledge of the plot, and sometimes it even means that I try to avoid knowing who’s in it. The buzz around It Comes at Night was so positive that I did my best to go in as blind as possible, so it was a surprise to me when the Joel Edgerton appeared. And it immediately lowered my expectations for the film.
The film features Edgerton as Paul, a history teacher turned survivalist living in a post-apocalyptic world with his wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.). The world has been overrun by a mysterious contagious disease, so they’re doing their best to keep to themselves in their house in the woods and to keep from drawing any attention to themselves.
That second part didn’t go so well because one night, they awake to hear someone trying to break into the house. It’s Will (Christopher Abbott), who claims that thought the house had been abandoned and he was just looking for supplies for his wife (Riley Keough) and toddler son Andrew (Griffin Robert Faulkner). Fearing that turning Will away might cause him to come back with reinforcements, Paul decides to go check out his story and then invoke Will and his family to move in with them, pool their resources, and help them defend their property.
Sadly, there is nothing in this movie that makes me care in any way about any of the characters. It’s very vague, especially at the beginning, which I assume is trying to create mystery or intrigue, but came off as pretentious and off-putting. There are a lot of dream sequences that are probably meant to fool the audience, except that they’re obviously dream sequences and therefore just annoying.
It’s a fairly short movie (only 91 minutes), but so little happens that it feels much longer. And when things do happen, most of the tension that the film wants you to feel comes from the stupidity of the characters, and especially Edgerton’s Paul. He has good instincts and ideas, but his frustrating hesitancy in following through on them is responsible for just about all of the advancement of the plot, and it gets old very quickly.
It feels like It Comes at Night is trying to be a cousin to The Witch (which I refuse to spell with two vees). Knowing that would’ve also helped appropriately set my expectations for the movie, because I hated that movie, too.