Horror fans that live near a large multiplex were recently given an interesting choice whether to see the action/horror revamp of The Mummy starring Tom Cruise which is thus far faring poorly with some critics or the lower budget film It Comes at Night which is getting rave reviewers from many. As for which film to go with though the answer will probably just come down to what you’re looking for. If the idea of Tom Cruise fighting ghouls and monsters sounds awesome by all means go with The Mummy. If you’re looking for something different though It Comes at Night may be a better investment of your time and money.
Now for those that have not yet heard about the film It Comes at Night is a psychological post apocalyptic type horror film revolving around a plague of some sort. As for the films strengths the director Trey Shults likely has a promising career ahead of him. After creating several shorts, and then expanding one into a well regarded full length indie drama titled Krisha, Shults has now been given more substantial funds and actors to work with for a proper film debut. If It Comes at Night is any indication he likely has a bright future ahead of him as either a writer or director. It Comes at Night is both well written and well directed with a great set up, realistic characters, and is absolutely dripping with tension sure to keep you on the edge of your seat. If one is the sort to enjoy reading between the lines when it comes to film the story may be a telling reflection of the isolationist climate that has spread throughout culture and politics.
Within the film the main character played by Joel Edgerton, who is building a respectable horror resume between films like 2011’s The Thing and The Gift, is pushed to great lengths by his fear of outsiders. Edgerton’s family has been riding out the plague in an isolated cabin and reacts forcefully at the first sign of outsiders. While the viewer is given little to no information about just how contagious the virus is or how wide it has spread Edgerton is willing to give the first outsider he encounters played by Christopher Abbot quite the beating before tying him up for a day to wait and see if he shows signs of infection. After reluctantly coming around to helping the stranger they are ambushed by two other men and rather than trying to learn anything from them Edgerton simply puts them down. After bringing Abbots wife and son back to his families cabin the viewers are shown the sort of montage which is common in post apocalyptic or zombie films of the group roughing it but also bonding.
Quickly though the tensions begin to run high as house rules are broken, back stories are questioned, and someone or something else seems to be in the woods with them. The conflict then revolves around whether the two families can work together, or if they will turn on one another. Meanwhile Edgerton’s son is plagued by nightmares that occasional leave him, and the viewer questioning if what they are seeing is real or a dream. As such those that enjoy looking for deeper meanings in film may be intrigued by the narrative of disaster brining out fear, paranoia, and zealotry rather than man’s better angels as well as the parallels one may draw to the political climate at home or abroad. As for those with more caveman sensibilities the film may be quite frankly boring.
Virtually nothing is explained about the virus and its impact on the world at large. Putting together the pieces for oneself about how the virus operates is also quite challenging as the characters seem to break their own precautions for unstated reasons. When going outside the characters often wear gasmasks or cover their faces presumably because the virus may be airborne. Other times though they venture outside without said precautions. There may be some sort of internal logic going on like brief exposure to open air is fine, but not prolonged exposure though this is never stated out loud. The goal may alternatively be to convey that the characters are just guessing themselves and know little more than the audience, but again they never admit out loud that they hardly understand what they are dealing with. While the film is excellent at building tension one may also be underwhelmed by the pay offs and may leave the theater unsatisfied.
If however one really enjoyed say the first two thirds or so of the recent 10 Cloverfield Lane and wants more psychological, survival horror, which mostly plays out in confined quarters this film may just be for you. If you’re looking for some semi-spooky fun though perhaps The Mummy is the better investment.