Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Overlook Theatre Reviews: It Comes At Night, Trey Edward Schults'

7 of 10 viewers "Liked" "It Comes At Night" (2017, USA)
Here's what the creatures had to say:

Clark Little - "Trey Edward Schults' second directorial effort is a master exercise of tension and dread. The stunning camera work, adds to the overall dizzying and unbalanced nature of the story. The story is simple and timely to today's political culture. Shults wrote the screenplay over three years ago, but it has been deemed the "Horror Movie We Need for the Trump Era" because of its narrative that could be easily taken as symbolism for nationalism. I'm not a politics guy. It tires me and it always comes off as pandering in the end. However, I am a supporter of selling quality products and It Comes at Night is definitely of high quality. So if it will get more people in the cinema supporting independent film, sign me up for the next march." - 4 Stars

Lord Battle - "It Comes At Night is a collage of horror imagery from the The Witch-esque movie poster to the prominent red door ala the Insidious franchise, a grotesque sex scene ala Cabin Fever, and the visual aesthetic of an episode of The Walking Dead, complete with plague contagion (just no zombies). This may sound like it's gearing up to be the most brutal summer we've spent in the woods while in a theatre, yet It Comes At Night isn't a horror film. Trey Edward Shults has finally accomplished what non horror fans of Raw, Don't Breathe, and The Witch have always wanted; an elevated genre film, so elevated it's just removed from the genre. And to be fair, my only complaints are with the story not the marketing, I'd actually love to see the film in the trailer. I guess this is just marks the first time I wasn't "Pleasantly surprised", in fact I was pretty annoyed. Oh, and I should say Trey Edward Shults really created a great mood in ICaN but because of the time we're living in I kept reading it as an ominous Trump narrative... And for those who really liked this film, you need to check out Queen of Earth, because it's a lot like ICaN but with an honest approach to this type of "horrific" drama." - 3 Stars

The Berkeley Blazer - "Seeing this brotha creeping his way around the woods and the house with a lantern --straight-up Bontë-style--- is one of my favorite images from the film and a perfect visual metaphor for what it feels like to make your way through It Comes at Night. I usually find the whole "film is a visual medium/images should tell the story" to be a especially specious strain of bland argument but here the minimal dialog and emphasis on atmospheric dread really serves the narrative thrust of the film. If you read reviews you might hear talk of bleak bleak bleak which in turn made me worried it would be bore bore bore, because films that are philosophically pessimistic just to be so are the cinematic equivalent of a raving angsty teenager who read the first chapter of a Camus novel. This is not that film. This is a post-apocalyptic meditation on human relations thematically comparable to The Road and the most exciting thing about It Comes At Night is that it's consistently exciting and pace perfect. I was invested in every single one of the characters, despite the massive Bruegel painting in the overture that foreshadows the ending, hard. When the credits rolled, I was left with the same feeling I get when I've finished a particularly taut and powerful novella or short story. Notice I'm avoiding details about the film because they have so much power as little moments to be discovered and chewed on like bites of truffle. Savor it. I will say: one of the things that make It Comes At Night so ultimately devastating is its depiction of a believably hopeful possibility where people work together and share their burdens beautifully. Truly, I cannot wait to own and enjoy It Comes, at night." - 5 Stars

Trash - "I guess It Comes At Night isn't the horror movie that fans wanted. Misleading marketing or not, it's a disappointment so many viewers seem to be letting their expectations spoil what I felt was a brilliant character drama set in a plague-ridden post-apocalypse. It's a dreary study of what happens to a family living in paranoia, misanthropically dedicated to keeping its setting more powerful than the story's inhabitants, because people are simply no longer the dominant species. The nondescript plague functions more as a part of the setting than of the narrative, because the only thing the film is focused on are the characters. The cast arrive on screen looking as if they have been living in the world for quite sometime, rendering stars Joel Edgerton and Carmen Ejogo almost unrecognizable -- they are just a couple living with their son and dog through the end of humanity. Edgerton plays a former teacher who's now an expression of fearful masculinity, wanting to protect his family and do what's right. Their son, played by Kelvin Harrison Jr., steals a lot of the movie, coping with being a teenager who is going to be denied the life experiences he'd expected to have. Also, can I just say, Trey Edward Shults is a great new director. Like, put some exclamation points next to that dude's name when you say it, he's going to make some good films." - 4.5 Stars

The Impostor - "Teaser trailer creepy and stunning, movie poster mysterious and intriguing, actual film confusing, bland and most of the time boring. A24 has a great track record of indie horror films brought to a wider audience and most are highly recommended and reviewed. It Comes At Night intrigued me especially after first teaser, and I didn't want to know anything more of the film. Sadly nothing else happens. Like what comes at night? Besides a man and his wife fucking one night. I wish I didn't go in expecting a horror movie, if I went in expecting a drama I think I'd feel a bit better about this film. Acting is great, especially on Joel Edgerton's part, so that's a plus. This film is totally left up to the viewers imagination and nothing is explained. I've seen films like this before but had some sort of satisfaction, but in this movie I did not. Is it a disease, infection, a germ, Madea? I don't know. Hell, these families afraid of Madea coming at night would have been a better movie. Overall, maybe I wasn't in the right state of mind going​ in but the title of the film is definitely a grab for fans looking for a horror movie, or even teens looking to be scared. Sadly it is not any of those things. Maybe in the future I'd give this another watch and my review will change... Maybe." - 2.5 Stars

Johnny Ocelot - "Atmospheric, brooding, ethereal. Although not really covering a lot of new ground, the film is strong with a fantastic setting. But not for all horror fans, to be honest." - 4 Stars

The Ascendant - "New York-based distributor A24 have only been active for 5 years, yet their presence is clearly felt. They are absolutely fearless and one look at the entirety of their filmography is proof-positive of that. There you'll see Academy Award-winning films such as Moonlight (2016) & Room (2015) standing in arms with recent genre-favorites such as Under The Skin (2014), Green Room (2016), The Witch (2016) and Ex Machina (2015). With that being said, even the straight-A student gets an occasional B+ or C-, which here takes the form of Trey Edward Shults' 2017 film, It Comes At Night. Underneath deeply engaging cinematography (Drew Daniels) and an odd, yet wonderfully minimalistic score (Brian McOmber) is a wafer-thin plot that whole-heartedly believes it is more intelligent than every Post-Apocalyptic film you have ever seen. For his sophomore-effort, Shults draws once again draws on the theme of familial tensions, which he addressed in his 2015 debut feature, Krisha. Luckily for him, that focus on family is played wonderfully by its cast, with clear stand-outs being Joel Edgerton (Midnight Special) & Kelvin Harrison Jr. (12 Years A Slave), who have such fantastic chemistry with each other as (Post-Apocalyptic) father & son, that it hides the fact that this film isn't quite sure where its destination is, meandering often. Somewhere in that 91-minute run-time (which does have its share of beautifully tense moments) is a much better film. Less isn't more, may I please go through the red door?" - 3 Stars

Huntress - "I can't help but wonder if It Comes At Night started out as a completely different movie, one with more on-screen action as opposed to your mind filling in the blanks for you. But maybe someone decided to cut most of it out in an attempt to be more arthouse? I know, it sounds like a stretch, but I can't understand the logic of marketing this movie almost explicitly to horror fans. I was told that grabbing some drinks and feeling good right before watching this film for the first time puts you in the wrong state of mind, one that won’t appreciate all the tension this film has to offer. Although that just makes me feel like I’m not part of the target audience. That being said, I'd probably be interested to rewatch It Comes At Night in the future, but this time from a more academic standpoint." - 2.5 Stars

Math Mage - "This movie is every apocalypse survival movie you've seen except there's no apocalypse or anything else interesting." -2 Stars

Randy The Reverberator - "So, I had written a quick summation of my feelings on Letterboxd a day or so after having seen It Comes At Night. However, I've also been thinking about this film a lot since that initial viewing. To summarize; I didn't love it, but thought it had some interesting camera movements and an eerie aesthetic. Director Trey Edward Shults is an immense talent. I'm excited that we have such a young, new American director making interesting films. I loved his debut, Krisha. It's a family drama, with mostly unknown actors...a very independent production, but with someone behind the camera that's a definite cinephile with an acute knowledge of film grammar. It's like Cassavetes meets Kubrick. It was captivating, I felt like I was inside the titular character's psyche for most of the movie, and that was off putting to say the least. It was more frightening to me than most of It Comes At Night. Which brings me to my disappointment in being disappointed with It Comes At Night. I really wanted to love this movie, and it has a lot going for it technically. However, I didn't care about these characters as much as I had hoped to, and the story felt less focused than Krisha. Although I'm a self proclaimed non-horror guy, I still have to say that the genre elements felt more like a selling point than a crucial element to telling this story. Like Krisha, this film is a family drama, and there's plenty of 'horror' in that alone." - 3 Stars

The Overlook Theatre Final Rating*

(Below is for after you've seen the film)

Shortly before exiting theatre 1 of the New Mission, a conversation began. But not how it normally starts, with person X asking person Y what they thought and person Y eases in their opinion, unsure of how persons A, B, and C felt. This time it was the critiques came from confusion, The Impostor's confusion. "What you think?" "That ain't no horror movie!" "You like it?" "Oh, you did like it." "What the fuck came at night? Just that little boy." "You like it?" "That ain't no horror movie!"
Now I'm paraphrasing but that's pretty close to the instant Impostor reaction. And I'm not making fun of it, I actually think the horror bait and switch coaxed the best/most honest review that he's ever written. And what his reaction also did was put me in the mindset to try and guide him through how this brilliantly executed film could disappoint him so thoroughly. If you read his review above he never truly figured it out, although I am 99% sure it's just the horror marketing that played with his expectations. But while discussing all the great subtleties within It Comes at Night we came across a pretty interesting theory.

Starting with what might be the best shot in the film, we find ourselves looking at Bruegel "Triumph of Death" confronted with what we can now assume is a plague-like epidemic. The camera pans to the right until we are released from the bright depiction of human mortality and confronted with the dark, ominous hall, that would be empty if not for the wall proudly decorated with a long trail of family photos. As the camera crawls down the hall fulfilling our voyeuristic desires, a dread creeps in as we are confronted with a bright red door. The unnatural and bright color harks back to the Bruegel painting whose haunting imagery of skeletons lingers as we continue towards our destination. It's in those few moments that the family portraits sneak in what I think is a major clue, Joel Edgerton. Now I'm not saying that the mixing of races has set off a biblical apocalypse but rather this is a visual book note of a change in this family's history and shortly after we see Paul lead the oldest existing member of the family outside where he hastily executes him in a pointedly brutal fashion. This moment is accented by the fact Paul has brought his son out to help partake in the euthanization of his grandfather.

So, again I feel the need to say that just because Paul is the first white guy on the portrait wall and has killed the black male who was the former head of the family, I don't feel this film is actually racially motivated in a race war kinda way. I honestly believe this is just visual storytelling; what we should be looking at here is Paul's paranoia and his personal definition of what the "head of the family" is and should do. The film ends with Paul accidentally killing a child and then murdering the child's mother. A cold act that could be spun as merciful. But by this point I was completely convinced that Paul had manufactured this whole situation.

The narrative in It Comes At Night throws us into the middle of pretty complicated situation in which the movie tells the story of what happens when a stranger stumbles upon this seemingly empty house one night. The theory that Paul is a methodical maniac taking advantage of a family rather than continuing the lineage is supported by his harsh reaction to all outsiders and lack of resemblance to his son. But one moment stood out to me that actually portrayed Paul as somewhat caring...

After capturing Will (Christopher Abbott) and tying him to a tree, Paul begs Will to convince him of the truth so he isn't forced to kill him. I thought this moment was finally proof that Paul did really have the best intentions in mind and that they were just buried in our new apocalyptic reality. It wasn't until I spoke with Math Mage after the film that he was able to point out that he was applying an interrogation tactic. Will was left tied outside over night with his head covered. This is not the action of a compassionate man. The choice to bring his family back also appears to be the right thing to do but after some discussion with Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) it also becomes clear that anyone missing Will might start looking for him... This power struggle is expressed with a diner table seat change as Paul now sits at the head of the table (watch the diner table seating, ICaN does a good job showing character dynamics this way).

From here the pieces should fall into place, the burial of Travis' dog and how it was different, who owns the food/water, where does Paul sit in the closing of the film, has Sarah aligned with a morally strong man or the strongest man?

-Lord Battle

The Overlook Theatre materialized in the New Mission theatre for a screening on 6/8/2017
*Based on the star ratings turned in by character reviewers, others viewed and got to "Dislike" or "Like" but that does not affect the rating.

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