- It Comes at Night gained new attention after being added to Max, sparking debate among horror fans.
- The film received mixed reviews upon its theatrical release due to misleading marketing and ambiguous storytelling.
- Despite its divisive reception, those who appreciate slow-burn horror and open-ended interpretations may find it worth watching.
Streaming has a way of re-introducing films, and it is not uncommon for a movie that was previously released to little fanfare to become a talking point when hitting a platform and becoming widely available. Looking at the trending or top section on almost any streaming service, you will likely see one or two older releases alongside exclusives and movies straight out of the theater.
One movie getting this recent treatment, thanks to the inclusion on Max, is Trey Edward Shults’ It Comes at Night, a highly divisive film from A24 that was met with mixed reactions from fans when released in theaters in 2017. We will examine why the film was met with mixed reviews and whether its second life on Max warrants horror fans to check out the movie several years after its contentious theatrical release.
It Comes at Night Plot and Cast
It Comes at Night follows a family who has found security in a desolate home, escaping an unnatural threat terrorizing the rest of the world. Maintaining a strict order over his wife and son, Paul discovers that a new young family tests his morality as he takes them in, but it begins to strain the dynamic he built up so carefully. As paranoia and mistrust grow, Paul begins to turn violent toward the new family, fearing they may be carrying the illness he was protecting against.
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Trey Edward Shults, who at this point is an underrated filmmaker, directed the movie, with It Comes at Night being his second feature film, his debut Krisha showing early promise leading up to his A24 debut. Since the movie’s release in 2017, Shults has only completed one other film, Waves, in 2019, though he does have two projects in the works, including a yet-titled project with pop artist The Weeknd.
There was a consensus that the casting for the movie and performances were wonderfully executed. Joel Edgerton (The Gift, Boy Erased), who plays Paul, the patriarch of the isolated family, and Christopher Abbott (Possessor, James White), who plays the intruder (Will), both give career-defining performances. Rounding out the cast, Carmen Ejogo and Riley Keough are memorable as Paul and Will’s respective partners, with Kelvin Harrison Jr. shining as Paul’s son.
Why Is It Comes at Night Divisive?
Sitting at a score on Rotten Tomatoes of 88% fresh by critics and 44% audience score, one can instantly assess that It Comes at Night is divisive mainly among viewers. The film’s theatrical run saw it gross 20 million worldwide and claim the 6th spot at the box office. While these numbers seem low, the modest budget of five million still marked the film as a success. Still, compared to the success of A24’s 2023 film Talk to Me, which earned 90 million at the box office, It Comes at Night is far from the highest earner.
There are two primary reasons why the movie was met with mixed reception, both in the lead-up to and initial reactions, as well as the film’s content. Both of these also could have been avoided if approached differently.
It Comes at Night Had Misleading Marketing
It is important to bear in mind that A24, as a production company, was still building a reputation, with their first significant horror film that got people talking, The Witch, in 2015, also having a somewhat divided audience. While the label of A24 certainly intrigued many, the early hype for the movie came from Rotten Tomatoes’s critics’ scores before its release, with many touting it as an exceptional entry into the horror genre.
Combining the early praise with the trailers leading up to the release, It Comes at Night was painted as a much more traditional horror story, leaving many audiences uncertain or upset and misled. The trailer certainly gives the impression of a shocking horror emphasizing post-apocalyptic elements centered around disease. While the story elements are not necessarily misleading, the actual delivery of the content is a far cry from the sensational promise made in the trailer.
It Comes at Night Is Full of Ambiguity, Slow Burn, and Intent
Many elements throughout the movie are left vague and open to interpretation; this includes certain twists often seen as faux pas, including the use of dream sequences (from which the trailer borrowed). With a disease raging across the world, what that sickness is, run-ins with infected, and how family members contracted the disease (or if they even have it) is left intentionally vague.
The movie’s pacing further divided audiences, with slow-burn horror films always being a point of contention among the fandom. To some, an atmosphere with a few scares is welcome; to others, it is a tedious approach compared to the more jump-scare-heavy features. This has always been the case with examples like Ti West’s 2009 cult horror movie The House of The Devil, sparking heavy debates online, ranging from calling it a masterpiece to pretentious drivel.
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The themes of the movie and its intent did not end up resting with ‘infectious horror’; instead, It Comes at Night focused on exploring the extremes people will go to when faced with disaster. The horror comes from the corruption of morals and paranoia brought on by one family invading another’s space, which is a fascinating approach if one is aware of the intent going in and not led to believe the movie is something else.
Should I Still Watch It Comes at Night?
It is easy to see why some audiences were taken aback by It Comes at Night when looking at the trailer and the hype but being given a different film than expected. The work aligns with many other divisive horror films in structure and delivery; imagine being told a Nicolas Winding Refn film was a non-stop thrill ride only to be met with the atmospheric pacing of Drive.
However, those who know what they like in horror and enjoy elements like a slow burn, atmosphere, and open interpretations will likely vibe with the film that Trey Edward Shults has constructed. It’s arguably one of the best A24 horror films and pairs nicely with movies like The Witch, Saint Maud, Black Coats Daughter, and The Hole in the Ground. If any of those movies appealed to you, don’t hesitate to check out It Comes at Night, which is currently streaming on Max.