Major spoilers ahead.
It Comes At Night is uncomfortable. No other way around it. It isn’t particularly scary, but it’s as uncomfortable and unnerving as the scariest movie, and perhaps more so. So doesn’t that make it horror? I’d say so. A different kind of horror. No monsters, really. Except ourselves. Perhaps.
IMDB user Joshua Dysart says it best:
Inside the mind it is dark. You imagine it is safe. You take refuge there. Outside of the mind is the world. The world is sick, dangerous.
You have a door between the two. You keep it locked. You have a protocol for the door to keep what is out, out. The people you trust, that you let inside, you expect them to keep to the protocol as well.
But at night something comes the door can’t defend against. At night the dreams come, because the dreams live inside, with you. Dreams of doubt and fear. It’s at night when the door is most necessary… and most likely to be compromised.
“It Comes at Night” shrugs off traditional horror beats and embraces the extended discourse of a nightmare, the inky blacks lit only by a hand-held lantern, the invisible contagions that we can’t keep out no matter how hard we try, the way a fire we must light attracts things that might do us harm.
It’s “Night of the Living Dead” without zombies. It’s “The Thing” without a monster. It’s the distrust we have of everything outside, even the outsiders that are inside. It’s the long narrow dark hallway to a door that’s supposed to be locked, must be locked, but isn’t.
I really can’t express it any better, so I hope Mr. Dysart doesn’t mind me quoting him here. This is really the best take on this strange film and covers everything that is so great about this misappreciated film.
I do concede those who take issue with the nonsequitors sprinkled throughout the film. Particularly bothersome for me was the sexual tension between the boy and the wife of the guests. Once introduced, this awkward situation can only end badly in any event, but the fact it didn’t really go anywhere makes it seem rather gratuitous. I suppose it could represent a very realistic representation of real life tension which seems meaningful for a minute and then vanishes, but it really seemed almost like a misdirection more than anything else here. And that open door…? Perhaps the metaphor of a nightmare is the best way to understand this film.