What a shame, the very thing they were trying to avoid has happened. One of the family, the elderly grandfather of seventeen-year-old Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr), has contracted the virus somehow, and in spite of them all living out in the forest away from civilisation which has been blighted with it, it still affects them. The father, Paul (Joel Edgerton) knows what to do with the ailing parent of his wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo): take him outside, lie him down next to a freshly-dug hole, place a pillow over his head as a silencer and put a bullet in his brain, then roll the body into the grave and set fire to it. It's the only way to be sure, but more than that, it leaves the family feeling vulnerable...
With good reason in a film that attempted to encapsulate the paranoia of twenty-first century culture with one ambiguously metaphorical work. It was the brainchild of Trey Edward Shults who had, after a handful of short films, made his debut with the intriguing family drama Krisha which may not have been a horror movie, but was presented like one to maximise the feelings of unease in the main character and those around her when they were in her presence. There were much the same mechanisms in play here, refusing to show any traditional chiller monsters who could have been what came at night, and instead having the title refer to the nameless dread waking up at three o'clock in the morning can engender.
Especially waking up after a nightmare, or in this case series of nightmares, occurring every night and making it difficult for Travis to relax in any way, though he does rely on his father to reassure him or at least be a rock in his life who knows what to do in these trying times. The irony being, nobody really has any idea of how to cope with a modern crisis in a manner that will be beneficial for everyone, and the film's final shot was all the more bone-achingly tragic because of that. Bleak didn't begin to describe it, but if you turned on the news every morning and thought, "What the Hell are we doing with ourselves?" then this would most likely strike a chord with you even without relying on specifics.
For many, It Comes at Night was just too vague, they wanted proper violence, a zombie or ten, would it kill you to include a werewolf or something? But for those audiences who found themselves deep in contemplation at some point during the day without being able to pin down where this existential angst is stemming from other than the suspicion that nobody around you had any idea of what to do to make the world the better place we were all ostensibly trying to achieve, this would prove surprisingly potent. When the outsiders do arrive, they are a young family - dad Will (Christopher Abbott), mum Kim (Riley Keough, once again alighting on an unconventional screenplay) and little boy - and do not ultimately do anything particularly villainous, it's the circumstances that conspire against them.
If anybody could be carrying this virus (and we've seen the consequences in the opening five minutes) then you can relate to the mistrust between the families, no matter that if they were able to get along and set aside those misgivings they might have been able to make a go of this survival business. Then again, they might have wiped each other out regardless and entirely unintentionally, and this creeping question of who could potentially prove your undoing not being in plain sight unless your perception is honest or skewed enough to justify the act of destruction that small, insistent voice at the back of your mind keeps telling you to perform - you simply do not know. The gnawing feeling that nothing is definite, nothing concrete, everything liable to fall apart sooner or later was better conveyed here than in many a post-apocalyptic epic which had this tone in the background, but when nothing is resolved except the knowledge that the rot had set in despite your best efforts, it's safe to say this wasn't a barrel of laughs. Music by Brian McOmber.