It Comes At Night is brilliant, but easily misunderstood. A full analysis, review and spoilers are below!
It Comes At Night is the latest film from A24, the production company that produced The Babadook (2014) and Moonlight (2016), both of which were universally acclaimed.
It Comes at Night however, has polarised audiences and critics. Critics loved the film, citing it as a thrilling and thoughtful masterpiece, yet audiences hated it, branding it a boring and pretentious art film.
After attending the preview screening of It Comes At Night, I have to say that the critics got this one right. It Comes At Night is a tense and gripping cinematic experience. It’s a smart and unique film, which might be the reason the general audience hated it and particularly loathed the ending!
The film has many unanswered questions and themes that were left unresolved and that is not a bad thing! Cinema today is over-saturated with mindless action and superhero flicks. Along comes a film that is slow and haunting and may have flown over the heads of a lot of people.
Here, I attempt to break down It Comes At Night and uncover the meaning behind this masterful film. WARNING! SPOILERS BELOW!
What comes at Night?
After the credits rolled, audiences were left scratching their heads as NOTHING came at night. No zombies, no monsters, nothing! Turns out that “IT” is actually a metaphor for paranoia and fear. The fear of becoming sick, the fear of losing one’s family.
Every time something strange happened at night, the characters, particularly Paul (Joel Edgerton) became increasingly paranoid. It was that fear and paranoia that led to THAT ending.
Fear and paranoia come at night.
Was it all just a dream? Or did it actually happen!?
What some viewers may have noticed was that whenever Travis experienced a nightmare the aspect ratio of the film changed from 2.40:1 to 2.75:1. (For non-film nerds this means that the image changed from full widescreen to having black bars at the top and bottom).
However the last 15 minutes and the ending of the film displayed the 2.75:1 aspect ratio. This begs the question “Was it all a nightmare?”
At the end of the film, Paul and his family believe that Will’s son Andrew is sick. Andrew holds Paul at gunpoint and attempts to flee, and after a brutal fight sequence, Paul and Sarah mercilessly shoot and kill Will and his family.
When this happened on screen I thought that it was all just a dream and wasn’t that horrified. However, the film ended five minutes later and I was dazed and confused. Did that actually happen? If that did happen that means that all of Travis’s nightmares actually happened!? Or was it all just a dream sequence, rendering all the events in the film pointless? (Man this film messed with my brain!).
It turns out that it wasn’t ALL a dream (thank god). In a recent interview, Director Trey Edward Schultz revealed that the last act of the film demonstrates “when nightmare becomes a reality”. Clarifying that the horrific events at the end indeed took place! Holy S**t!
What about THAT ending?
At the end of the film before Paul kills Will and his family, Travis expresses his concern that Andrew (the son) is sick and that means HE himself is sick. After the brutal confrontation where Paul and Sarah kill Will and his family, we cut to a scene where Travis looks exhausted and is lying in bed looking up to Sarah.
Sarah comforts Travis telling him that it’s gonna be okay, and we cut to a final shot of Sarah and Paul sitting in front of each other on the dinning table in silence. Sarah breaks down and starts crying and the film ends.
When the film just abruptly ended I thought to myself, WTF just happened? But then after some thought I understood what happened and what would follow. Travis was indeed sick, Sarah broke down because she realised they would have no choice but to kill their son Travis. Dark stuff.
WHAT ABOUT ALL THE UNANSWERED QUESTIONS?
The film touched on numerous sub-plots but failed to provide answers to any of them. Like, why did Will lie about having a brother? What did Stanley (the dog) see in the woods? What attacked and injured Stanley? Why did Paul lie to Travis about Stanley being sick?
I was disappointed as I walked out of the film, however I realised that while it would’ve been satisfying to have closure, all of that was irrelevant to the meaning of the film. Why did will Lie to Paul? It doesn’t matter – it matters that because he lied he made Paul wary and more paranoid.
What was Stanley injured by? It doesn’t matter, but because he was attacked and injured it scared the living daylights out of the two families. These questions were intentionally left unresolved because they were meant to create fear and paranoia amongst the characters!
Viewers who hated the film because of these “plot holes” clearly missed the point of the film. The tagline of the film seems to make so much more sense now: Fear turns men into monsters.
It Comes At Night left me dazed and confused well after the credits rolled. Only after some deep thinking did I come to an understanding of the film that enhanced my outlook on the film completely! It Comes at Night is a haunting and atmospheric drama with beautiful visuals and engaging characters that grasp you from its opening scene.
On top of all this it is a film that doesn’t give you all the answers and forces you to introspect and decide for yourself, and that is why It Comes At Night is so amazing. The more I think about the film the more I love it, and not many films can do that to me. Trey Edward Schultz is a very talented director and I look forward to seeing more of his work.
It Comes At Night is now playing in cinemas.