Thursday, June 15, 2017
It Comes at Night Review
This may seem menial, but these details are important. When weekend box office results started to come in, "It Comes at Night" was falling well below expectations as it only grabbed $6 million. This was sparked by an extremely negative audience reaction. Opening day audiences gave the movie a "D" CinemaScore and, despite it's 86 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, the Flixter user score is only 44 percent. This strong negative reaction from regular moviegoers didn't have me worried, but it did have me curious as to what it is that has caused such a polarizing difference between critics and regular moviegoers. I began to theorize in my head as to what this movie was really about and my conclusions going in were that this wasn't your typical horror movie and that there was something that was going to happen in this movie that angered casual audiences and pleased critics who often go in with different expectations that are more analytical as compared to casual horror fans that just want to be scared and don't want to have to think much about it. Thus my expectations shifted completely following the weekend, making me glad that I waited. Thus I can say that I wasn't blindsided by this movie at all. In fact, I was able to really love this movie.
After analyzing these factors, I conclude that if you go into "It Comes at Night" expecting a cliche horror film where a family gets trapped in a cabin in the woods and some sort of monster comes in and haunts them, thus providing you with a slew of jump scares, a creepy monster and lots of blood and gore, you're going to walk out hating this movie. Because that's not what this movie is. Even though that's kinda what they advertised in the trailers. A bit of a marketing fail, perhaps, that may have attracted the wrong crowd to the theater. But if you subvert your expectations and prepare for something different and deeper, then there's a lot to love about this film. In fact, the three horror movies previously mentioned follow similar formulas. "The Witch," "The Babadook" and "It Follows" are all fairly deep thematically with a rich story and great acting that completely sell what the writers and directors were going for. I suppose casual audiences walked into each of those movies expecting certain things to happen and when those things didn't happen, they got angry and left a bad review online. I suppose everyone is allowed to have their own personal tastes, but it makes me sad when people completely miss the point of these genius horror films.
Up to this point, I've been doing a lot of talking around this film without even diving into any specifics. That's kind of on purpose because this movie is shrouded with a lot of mystery and suspense that I don't want to spoil, so I feel safe making parallel comparisons and I think "The Witch," "The Babadook" and "It Follows" are three similar movies to "It Comes at Night." If you want a brief summary of what this movie is about, this is about a family living out in the middle of nowhere. There's not a lot of exposition in this film as we don't follow our typical movie arc with a fleshed out beginning, middle and end. We're just kind of thrown into that middle section as we are witnessing the after effects of whatever has happened to the world and this family specifically. We have a father, a mother and a teenage son and all three of them have different approaches to dealing with this and I loved following their individual arcs and how each of them reacts when another family comes walking onto their property unannounced. There are a lot of small, character moments scattered throughout between various combinations of characters that paint a very beautiful, symbolic film that has a lot to say about human nature and how we all respond differently.
Yes, unconventional is the word of the day here. But yet when you go into an A24 film, that's something you should come to expect. Other recent movies they've distributed are "Moonlight," "The Lobster," "Swiss Army Man," "Room," "Ex Machina" and the aforementioned "The Witch." They are well-versed in the unconventional. Sometimes it leads to universal praise and Oscar nominations while other times it leads to mixed feelings and controversy. That's the nature of experimental film, though. If you walked out of the movie hating it, I can understand where you are coming from, but I think if you go in with expectations that I've talked about, then I think this is a movie that can be loved, watched and discussed for years to come. If you specifically loved the three horror movies that I have repeatedly referenced, "The Witch," "The Babadook" and "It Follows," and you are confused or disappointed at the negative reaction those movies got from some and you're ready for another unconventional horror film, then I really think you should give "It Comes at Night" a chance. I'm not going to grade it quite as high as "The Witch" and "The Babadook," which are both near perfect horror films in my mind, but this won't be too far behind as I'm giving "It Comes at Night" a 9/10.