This movie came out earlier this year, and the marketing team did a wonderful job boosting the intrigue to this movie to the point that I actually wanted to see it. I had many questions going into the movie that I wanted to know the answers. What’s behind the red door? How/why’s the lady vomiting black goop into a guy’s mouth? And the most important, pressing question of them all: WHAT COMES AT NIGHT?
I don’t know. I don’t know what comes at night. Is it death? Is it despair? One thing’s for sure; questions follow this movie, and it’s infuriating. In fact, I’d say it’s one of the least satisfying movies I’ve ever seen. I’d say it’s probably in third place behind The Babadook and, the worst of all, Buried. (Don’t get me started on Buried.)
The movie follows the old as dust “what will a man do to keep his family safe?” theme, and combines it with a sci-fi outbreak trope. It’s unoriginal and unimaginative. It doesn’t even put a twist on either of the tropes. Of course Paul’s going to kill someone. That’s the worst thing people can seem to conceive when thinking of what to do to protect their families. My four year old sister came up with a better thriller plot than this while rambling for five minutes the other day.
If I had looked more into the movie before watching it I might’ve been more skeptical of attempting to sit through the whole thing. Within the first five minutes, I called the ending. Kid gets infected —my guess was from the dog, unprotected against whatever infection is about while they’re all wearing gas masks and gloves— and gets the parents infected as well, they all die, the end. The sheer predictability of the plot itself destroyed almost any attempt to build tension throughout.
I could walk faster than the pace this movie goes at, and my kneecaps have more tension than it too. (I’ve dislocated one by simply walking before. Yeah.) Although it’s roughly an hour and a half, it feels like instead of losing an hour from being so invested, it felt like I was being slowly put to sleep.
It starts out with the father, Paul, and the son, Travis, killing the infected, incurable grandfather, and how they go about their day to day lives. I’m a seasoned fan of The Walking Dead, so none of this was very out of line with any of the communities within that show. The only clear difference from anything I’ve seen in similar genres was Travis’ nightmares. Whether they were actually his sleep-walking adventures or signs of being already infected I’ll never know, but they’re my two thoughts on what they hinted towards.
Tension was supposed to be made when we meet the opposing family man, Will, who Paul tied up and left outside over night because he tried to break into the house. If something comes at night and the title wasn’t speaking about just a concept, it likely could have visited him or contaminated him. When they kill two guys that Will recognized, they notably didn’t burn them, unlike what they did with the grandfather. Will’s wife and kid join up with Paul’s family, and they live together peacefully. Right? That’s how it always starts out, at least, in these types of movies.
The dumb dog runs off after seemingly seeing something in the forest (a la Vincent from Lost style) and is lost for the night. In the meantime, tension slightly rises when Paul calls Will’s lie of saying he grew up an only child. Don’t let this fool you— nothing comes of it. About at this time in the movie I had to go to the bathroom, but I was worried I wouldn’t want to come back afterwards from the pacing. I wish I had gone to the bathroom.
The families’ trust with each other, which already began to deteriorate from Will’s lie, was significantly struck by the return of Stanley. This scene is the single most confusing one out of the whole movie. It starts with Travis finding Will’s young son in the Grandfather’s old room. He brings him back to his family before noticing the always-locked-do-not-think-of-touching red door is open. Travis gets Paul, and Paul and Will investigate the scene. On the ground, Stanley lay dying. He is wounded, as there are what appear to be bloody drag marks, and the door is open.
I don’t need to say at this point that we don’t learn who or what killed the dog. Will’s wife states the two year old isn’t tall enough to even open the door, and accuses Travis of sleepwalking. Either way, someone or something had to have let the dog inside. Only Paul has the key, so I honestly don’t know how that happened.
Then from there the families take to different section from the house, and Will and his family decide to leave. Paul, his wife Sarah, and Travis have their own meeting where Travis says he thinks that the little boy is infected, and therefore also might be infected as well. Sarah proceeds to hug the hell out of her most likely infected son, and they wind up killing the other family in their entirety. First it’s the father, then the child and then the wife. I think we were supposed to feel something when the kid was shot. Whether it be the lack of tension or my lack of empathy towards most children characters, this made no effect to my already bored and unsympathetic nature. Of course, Travis is infected and has to be killed as well. The final shot has Sarah and Paul sitting at the kitchen table, apparently infected as it zooms out slowly. Then it cuts to the title.
In more ways than one, this movie was largely disappointing. Barely any questions were answered, and there were barely any answers suggested. Did the two men who weren’t burned come back as zombies and attack the dog? Did the dog eat their infected bodies and became infected? Was the dog infected the whole time? Who let the dog in? What did the dog see originally? Why was it only visually well made?
Some stories work better off-screen, and I believe that it would’ve been better received as a book. It would allow the audience the ability to find firm, textual details on different hypotheses they could formulate. I enjoy books, shows, and movies that give you clues and hints towards what’s actually happening like LOST, American Horror Story, Twin Peaks, even a kid’s show like Gravity Falls —hell, I’m in the process of editing my own book that allows the freedom of your own investigation to what happened unbeknownst to the protagonist— but you can’t make a shirt from vastly different materials without some thread.
I had to look desperately across the internet for some form of answer. I was determined to figure out what happened, when I came across an interview with the director, Trey Edward Shults. As a writer, it infuriated me. In the interview, Shults says,
“I feel like my movie, and in particular in this genre, people want to know what’s going on, want it tied up and I’m not doing that, so it’s probably extra frustrating. For me, it’s like the storytelling I believe in and I don’t approach a movie on a genre to genre basis. I just approach movies all in the same way.”
He’s right. I am frustrated, but now I’m more frustrated with his callous righteousness about not his lengths to make sure the movie cannot be tied up—in any fashion. There’s a difference between giving all the information away in creating something with no value in rewatching or changing upon each intake of the media and creating something that leaves you with adequate pieces for the viewer to rewatch and discover new things with each watching while being able to formulate some kind of purpose.
All in all this fragmented, assertively weak attempt at a wannabe artfully thought-provoking movie makes me want to do anything but watch it again. I’m glad I didn’t see it in theaters, and I’m glad I didn’t pay money to see it, because I wouldn’t want to give anyone who participated in the making of this film any sort of satisfaction of getting my two cents. You know what comes at night after this movie? Easy sleep. No nightmares. No nihilistic terrors. Nothing. Nothing but disappointment.