About fifteen minutes into “It Comes At Night,” I had the identical reaction I did to a suspense/horror film (“The Gift”) that Joel Edgerton also appeared in a year or so ago, which is basically please, don’t let the adorable dog meet a gruesome end. Or if it must, let it be signaled ahead of time so that I can look away. Fortunately, for animal lovers who plan to see this movie, I’m happy to report nothing bad happens to the dog, though you can’t say the same for the human cast.
The movie opens with an elderly man dying, presumably from something contagious as those attending him wear masks. After some moaning and rocking on his part, they place the guy in a barrow and wheel him out into the woods – this part may remind some of the “Bring out your dead!” scene in “Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail.” The poor guy definitely isn’t deceased yet, but this is soon taken care of – and then we jump into the main story – in which Joel Edgerton plays a father who lives in the same woodsy cabin with his wife (Carmen Ejogo) and seventeen-year-old son (Kelvin Harrison). Without really introducing anyone or putting things in context, there’s a lot of wordless sneaking around the property with guns loaded, as Joel and his family are threatened by thieves breaking in. The intruders turn out to be a couple (Christopher Abbott and Riley Keough) and their young son (Griffin Robert Faulkner). They insist that they live nearby – and as it turns out, we’re now in a dystopian world where plague runs rampant, so the news that they’re not ill (yet) prompts Joel to agree to take them in. However, the newcomers must follow a strict set of rules – no going into a locked chamber, only leave the house in pairs, etc. This works for awhile – until it doesn’t, and their guests wish to leave. Also there might be ghosts, as the Chamber of Secrets has been opened – but no one will admit to having done it.
Like “The Gift,” “It Comes At Night,” features the dilemma of a man who comes to realize that the person he has invited (however grudgingly) into his life and home turns out to have less-than-honorable intentions and must deal with the fallout of separating from him. What begins as an act from good intentions eventually turns sour and resolving things can only be messy. What is going on in the outside world isn’t focused on, instead we share the claustrophobic view of the main characters as they struggle to connect – and then separate. There are a few sweet moments, mostly involving Kelvin getting to know the newcomers, but it’s mostly action-driven. But on the bright side, the dog (as far as we know) does not share the fate of several characters.