It Comes at Night - 2017
It Comes at Night is the second showing for writer/director Trey Edward Shults, following up 2015’s Krisha. Starring Joel Edgerton (2015’s The Gift) as a man trying to protect his family, played by Carmen Ejogo (2017’s Alien: Covenant) and newcomer Kelvin Harrison Jr. (2016’s The Birth of a Nation), from various threats. I’m trying to keep the description as vague as possible because this is the type of movie where the less you know, the better it is for your experience. This movie is also produced by A24, and if you have been paying attention to their track record then you know why I mentioned it.
I honestly can’t remember the last time a movie had me in so much tension. Fair warning this movie is a slow burn, but it never lets your attention go. Shults, along with composer Brian McOmber, created a consistent tone throughout the entire movie. The music always complements the images on screen, never calling too much attention to itself but never fully disappearing in the background. My favorite section of the score was during a scene in the woods. McOmber decided to give the scene almost an African Drum style music, making the images of the woods seem primal.
Despite this being only the second outing for Shults, he put on a class in camera work. The camera movement never felt unnecessary; it helped maintain the tone and inform the audience. If you watched the trailer (Don’t. It’s a little misleading) you would’ve seen the POV shoot of someone going down a small tight hallway. There are many shoots like this that just fill you with tension waiting for something to happen. But, my favorite scene comes when Edgerton’s character is trying to decide if he should trust a new person that has arrived to their lives. The camera constantly moves from character to character following their conversation, never putting them in the same frame. As the conversation is coming to an end and as Edgerton decides he’s going to trust him, the camera slowly zooms away putting the characters in frame together for the first time. Along with this scene there are many more examples of zoom ins and pan outs that serve as visual cue to what the characters are thinking. Quick note: Shults bookmarked his movie with two same but different shots that perfectly summarizes the movie and those images are stuck in my head.
It Comes at Night also benefits from all-around great performances from its small cast. Having only six main players billed in your movie, you need them all to be on their game to have your screenplay shine. While everyone played to their strengths and held their own there are two standouts in my head: Joel Edgerton and Kelvin Harrison Jr. Edgerton continues to impress me with the Indie movies he gets attached to (The Gift, Loving, Midnight Special). He gave a subtle performance as the head of the family having to make tough decision after tough decision in the name of safety for his family. You can see his constant internal conflict trying to decide if it’s truly the best decision and it won’t come back to haunt him. Harrison Jr. served as a vehicle for the audience since most of the story is told through his eyes and is the character we most identify with. I look forward to his next movie, Mudbound, that’s coming out later this year.
Shults wrote the movie in a way that you don’t get a single unnecessary piece of information. There are barely any pure exposition scenes and the audience is never force-fed information through character dialogue. I watched this movie after watching The Mummy and they are worlds apart in all aspects of filmmaking. Shults truly impressed me as a director and I look forward to his next project. Constantly finding directors and actors that fuel my passion and excitement for this art is why I love movies.
It Comes at Night is currently playing in theaters. Skip the next remake, reboot, sequel or re-imagining and give this original breath of fresh air a chance.
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