Reeling it in: ‘It Comes at Night’ — Good, but hopeless

“It Comes at Night”

A24

1 hour, 31 minutes

I’ll be happy this week when “Thor” finally comes out. (Actually, if you’re reading this on Thursday, “Thor” opens tonight. Get your tickets now!)

The last three weeks have been a little hectic schedule-wise, and as a result I’ve watched three streaming movies in a row — one brand new, and two from earlier this year that I’d missed. There’s nothing wrong with that, necessarily — I mean it’s not like there was a heck of a lot going on at the theater. “Jigsaw?” I don’t think so.

But, either because of the season or just due to what was available, I picked three films that are either grim or scary or both. After this week’s downer, “It Comes at Night,” I’m ready for a candy-colored Marvel romp.

The story concerns a man, Paul, played by Joel Edgerton, who lives with his wife and teen son in a secluded home in the woods, hiding out from a vague pandemic that has apparently swept the world. Theirs is a life of strict procedures and brutal realities. Doors locked. Gas masks at the ready. Trust no one but family. Order is turned into upheaval when a stranger arrives claiming to have a wife and child starving in a cabin miles away. Pooling resources seems to make sense at first, but paranoia and mistrust are human characteristics that are impossible to get rid of, it seems.

I don’t want to give too much away about this film, not because there are twists, per se, but with too much discussion, the end of the film starts to seem inevitable. I could see the end coming about half-way in and I hoped throughout the entire last act that filmmakers would pivot away from the ending they seemed set on.

The movie is, indeed, scary, though more creepy than out and out horror. Joel Edgerton is excellent as a man on the edge — a former history teacher now tasked with one goal only: keeping his wife and son alive. There’s not a lot of dialogue in this film and Edgerton plays the taciturn patrician well.

His counter, Will, played by Christopher Abbot, is also very good — less stern than Paul, but with his own edge. Filling out the cast are Kelvin Harris Jr. and Carmen Ejogo as Sarah and Travis, the rest of Paul’s family, and Riley Keough as Kim, Will’s significant other. Keough is also very good here, though the movie doesn’t give her a lot to do. She’s frankly much better in “Logan Lucky,” a movie that’s a lot more fun.

I was impressed with “It Comes at Night,” and it does give you a lot to think about, but it’s not perfect. There are threads left untangled, and, as I mentioned, it’s fairly predictable.

The sense of growing unease and dread, however, are executed perfectly. It’s a bleak film with a bleak outlook on humanity that seems in vogue lately. I’m basically an optimist so movies like this always frustrate me. If these characters could just treat each other decently and trust that they would be treated decently in return, then everything would turn out fine. But then I guess there’d be no movie.

I can’t say I enjoyed this movie, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good. It’s just hopeless. And the payoff isn’t interesting enough to justify it, for me.

A movie I saw last year, “The Invitation,” was another film imbued with dread, and is, in the end, pretty bleak. But it’s also pretty snappy, if that makes any sense. The payoff at the end is fascinating as well as being scary. “It Comes at Night” is all atmosphere with very little reward.

Grade: B

“It Comes at Night” is rated R for violence and language.

Chris Jenness is an art teacher, freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.

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