It Comes At Night is one of the most humanist horror films in a while. One that disregards the villain in favor of putting everyone on a level playing field. By doing so, Shults creates an ambiguity that heightens the paranoia and fear. Characters are fleshed out not just by dialogue but by moments in the script that give them depth. Of all the characters, Travis spoke to me the most.
Plagued by the loss of his grandfather, Travis one true source of comfort becomes his dog. These developments are not typical to the standard horror film. We have seen the compassionate dog owner trope countless times and not just in genre fare. Travis’ hope on the other hand is buoyed by the animal.
The way sequences are edited, specifically the dream sequences, feel less perfunctory and more organic to the unfolding tension. It’s like Tarkovsky decided to make a horror movie. This influence is also apparent in the shots of nature. The twisted trees, gas masks, a grim-as-hell Renaissance painting depicting a world on fire that suggests- as it dissolves into a montage before cutting to photos of the family that inhabit the cabin- that this is a place that separates the people inside from the grotesque horror outside.
The film Shults directed prior to this, Krisha, showed he was adept at directing a family in the midst of a domestic disturbance. In that case it was the deeply troubled titular character who stalks around family Thanksgiving in a red dress. Here, a family is once again under emotional turmoil. Only this time, the horror lurks outside a red door in the form of an infection. As boundaries are drawn and allegiances shift, the horror that awaits outside becomes interior just as much as exterior.