Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Trey Edward Shults' IT COMES AT NIGHT -- Atmosphere: 10. Characters, pacing, story: 3

As sloppily silent as his earlier Thanksgiving-family-trauma movie, Krisha, was sloppily talkative, the new would-be horror movie from the hailed-as-a-wunderkind Trey Edward Shults (shown below) turns out to be one of the most disappointing entries into the apocalyptic, end-of-civilization genre TrustMovies has yet seen. Derivative, tiresome, repetitive and paced like molasses-on-ice, the film's worst sin is to trap us with a sextet of characters for 97 minutes and yet provide none of these protagonists with any real character. They're frightened, and they're distrusting, and that's about it. IT COMES AT NIGHT turns out to be as clichéd as its silly title, the "it" of which comes, well, just about anytime at all. But, hey, darkness (including via cinematography) can cover a multitude of sins, don'cha know?

This movie is actually so bad -- super high on atmosphere and dread but super low on any of the specifics and details that might give credence and meaning to its poorly conceived plot -- that I think it is practically spoiler-proof. I will still honor the element of surprise, however, and keep my mouth shut (and fingers tied down) so as not to ruin what little there is here. It is safe to say that some kind of non-specific plague has evidently decimated humanity, but one family has persisted out in the wilds, though as the film opens we see that poor Gramps is a goner, leaving mom, dad and son alive and presumably well. Soon a would-be break-in via an intruder leads to another mom, dad and son joining the little group.

So far, so-so, with nagging little questions regarding what possible good those silly gas masks can do (perhaps the infected let out some nasty farts?) and exactly how long it takes for symptoms to show up (somebody mentions their being fast-acting, but, hmmmmm...).

Not that any of this matters, for soon we're being treated to the requisite gooey/scary special effects (above and below), which of course come via the also requisite nightmares -- which are required because, otherwise, there would be no special effects to speak of at all, and our current idiot audiences absolutely demand these. But I digress.

I do question the need for such a first-rate cast -- Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo and Riley Keough, with an especially promising young actor, Kelvin Harrison, Jr., (at right in the penultimate photo) as the older of the two sons -- since no character trait whatsoever (other than being scared) has been provided them by the filmmaker.

Yes, the movie flirts with themes of trust and betrayal, the wisdom of helping others, family comes first, and that the horror may actually come from within. But it is all flirting -- with no real depth, let alone consummation.

So on we go. Until we don't. In its way, this is the perfect film for our Trumpian times: The situation is dire, and there's no hope.

Finally little other than a load of been-there/done-that crap, the movie is more than mere disappointment: It's a harbinger of our critical establishment's increasing placement of atmosphere above intelligent movie storytelling. If you are looking for a truly interesting, surprising, unusual and oddly fulfilling end-of-time/apocalypse film, I suggest that you watch The Girl With All the Gifts, available now on streaming and DVD.

Meanwhile, from A24 and running a snail-paced 97 minutes, It Comes at Night opens nationwide this Friday, June 9. To find the theaters near you, simply click here.

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