It Comes at Night (2017)

Viewed June 9

 

When a father struggling to keep his family safe from post-apocalyptic danger invites another man's family into his home, everyone tries to get along but, ultimately, the only ones you can trust are blood.

Krisha, the previous film by writer/director Trey Edward Shults, displayed an intuitive knack for cinematic storytelling with an artistic sensibility. Combining an intimate, wide-awake domestic naturalism with high-key, dreamlike psychodrama, he produced a tone viewers could sink into and explore as a world. For some, his follow-up, It Comes at Night was highly anticipated, but there was anxiety. Could he match the power of Krisha? After all, he worked on the micro-budget Krisha with his actual family and seemed to have been building up to telling that story for years. Unfortunately, some (but not all) of those anxieties were warranted. Once again, Shults works at the intersection of emotionally intimate domestic drama with nightmare horror surrealism. But the tone in It Comes at Night never fully harmonizes. There's a twee minimalism to the production design and use of the camera that is, I believe, intended to contrast with the film's emotionally over-wrought melodrama and hypnotic suspense scenes. OK, fair enough, but that contrast never seems to naturally emerge from the story/themes he's exploring. It doesn't feel like a world, it feels like a style. And because of that it never becomes either an involving family narrative or the sort of tense horror/suspense machine in the vein of It Follows or Don't Breathe that was promised by the trailer. Also, once you were absorbed in the tone of Krisha, that world kept unfurling because it was deep. You were living in this suburban Texas house for a while, hoping Krisha wouldn't have a meltdown. Here, the characters are flatter and the promise of the scenario runs out of steam half-way through. Because he never fully figures out what he's doing with the story/characters, it seems like the style is forced on, rather than emerging naturally. All that said, it was a fascinating watch, certainly more was on the line artistically than almost any other film I've seen this year and I can't wait to see what he does next.