• It Comes At Night

    Released by: Lionsgate Entertainment
    Released on: September 12th, 2017.
    Director: Trey Edward Shults
    Cast: Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott, Riley Keough, Carmen Ejogo, Kelvin Harrison Jr.
    Year: 2017
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    The Movie:

    Something has happened to the world – a plague of some sort, it’s never explained and it doesn’t need to be. When the movie starts, we meet Paul (Joel Edgerton), his son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) and his wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) just as they’re about to put down Sarah’s aging father, Bud (David Pendleton). We don’t know exactly what’s wrong with him, only that he’s sick and has visible, open sores on his body. Paul and Travis take him out of the boarded up house they call home, dig him a grave, shoot him in the head and then burn the body.

    The following night, someone breaks into the house by way of the red door – the only way in or out of the place. Paul arms himself and takes out the attacker who we later learn is named Will (Christopher Abbott). He thought that the place was abandoned and was hoping that he could find some water or anything else useful for his family. After some discussion, Sarah talks Paul into driving Will back to get his wife Kim (Riley Keough – Elvis Presley’s granddaughter!) and son Andrew (Griffin Robert Faulkner). It makes sense, if they’re not sick, for them to live together. There’s strength in numbers. Paul and Will are attacked by two armed gunmen on the way, but eventually they make it back with the new recruits. Shortly after, their dog Stanley hears something in the woods and goes after it.

    And things are fine at first. Paul lays down the simple rules he expects everyone to live by – they’re all sensible – and everyone seems to get along just fine. Of course, that doesn’t last and once they find the red door open in the middle of the night, paranoia sets in and it all heads south.

    Made using basically one set and with a small cast, It Comes At Night is, in a word, tense. Right from the start we know something is wrong and that Paul is hardened enough at this point to do whatever he needs to do in order to keep his family safe. If that means executing his father-in-law, then that’s what he’ll do. He takes no pleasure in this, but he’ll do it. Joel Edgerton plays this part really well. He’s believably tough but also clearly concerned about the well-being of his wife and son, even if he occasionally brings that to the point where it causes tension among even them. The rest of the cast are also very strong. Kelvin Harrison Jr. plays Travis as slightly meek, maybe a little socially awkward. There’s a weird sort of throwaway scene here where he talks to Kim alone in the middle of the night. Neither of them can sleep, it happens purely be chance. He’s attracted to her and when she stretches her back he can’t help but notice her body. She doesn’t seem to mind, but when he realizes he’s been caught looking, he basically flees. We don’t know how long this seventeen year old has had no social life. He lives with his mom and dad in the middle of nowhere. Being around an attractive woman (presumably in her mid-twenties) seems unusual for him, he doesn’t know how to respond to her. Likewise, Riley Keough as Kim is quite good. She doesn’t get as much screen time here as the others but she’s perfectly believable, as is Carmen Ejogo as Paul’s wife. The other male lead, Christopher Abbott as Will, additionally turns in really solid work here. We don’t know whether or not he should be trusted or not. As most of the movie plays out from Travis’ point of view, we naturally want to side with Paul and we are given one legitimate reason to distrust Will about half way through the movie even if we don’t really know if he’s lying or not. The acting on Abbott’s part is really solid – really, the whole cast do great work.

    There’s not much here in the way of gore. There’s only one moment you could really say is a jump scare and it’s not crammed into the movie, it fits in nicely. There’s no obvious supernatural element at play here and there’s no shaky cam or found footage aspect to the picture. Instead, the movie relies on good writing, well-crafted characters, a well-designed set and really solid cinematography to tell its story. This might be a minimalist film in a lot of ways but it’s no less effective for it.


    The transfer on this AVC encoded 1080p high definition release frames the movie at 2.39.1 widescreen and it looks quite good. As you’d expect, there’s no dirt or debris here and detail is generally outstanding. In the lighter scenes, colors are nicely reproduced and look quite natural most of the time even if they are a little on the bleak side in terms of style. Black levels are strong throughout and contrast is solid. The darker scenes are a little different. As they tend to be lit using flashlights and lanterns, color looks a little washed out and black levels can get a little hazy looking. This isn’t a transfer flaw, it’s just the way that the movie was meant to look. Otherwise, no complaints here, this is an very nice looking transfer from Lionsgate of a very dark looking movie.

    The English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix is also very strong. There are moments of intense surround activity throughout, particularly during the attack scenes. There are stretches here without any action that are instead more dialogue and mood based – pay attention during this more restrained moments and you’ll pick up on some subtle but effective use of the surrounds – but a lot of the movie, particularly the last half, benefits from a lot of great depth and directionality. Subtitles are offered in English SDH and Spanish.

    The main extra on the disc is a commentary track with Trey Edward Shults and Kelvin Harrison Jr. that provides plenty of welcome background information on the movie. Shutls talks about writing the picture and where some of the ideas came from (and how they tied into his relationship with his late father) as well as the locations, the set design employed for the main house set, casting the film and more. It’s also interesting to note that the whole thing started with the idea of the opening scene and again, how so much of what happens in this opening scene stems from his relationship with his father in his last days. Harrison, who occasionally serves as a moderator in a way, discusses his thoughts on the film and his character as well as what it was like working on the film from an actor’s standpoint.

    The disc also contains a half hour long featurette entitled Human Nature: Creating It Comes At Night. This is a fairly standard behind the scenes piece that shows off what it was like on set, some of the cast and crew members prepping for various scenes and more (some of which is shot from an interesting angle – slightly above the Panavision lens mounted on the camera used for the shoot!). Lots of interviews with the cast members here as well, each of whom speaks quite favorably about working on the film.

    Outside of that we get trailers for a few other A24/Lionsgate releases (though no trailer for the feature itself), animated menus and chapter selection. An insert card containing a download code for a digital HD version of the movie is also included with the disc, as is a cardboard slipcover.

    The Final Word:

    It Comes At Night is as tense as it is bleak, a well-made thriller that plays not with over the top gore or cheap jump scares but that instead relies on a grounded and very human element to pull you in. Lionsgate’s Blu-ray presents the film with strong technical merits and some decent extras as well.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!