There perhaps was no more divisive movie this past summer than It Comes At Night. The film was beloved by critics (93% on Rotten Tomatoes) but despised by audiences (a D Cinemascore, lower than any other film this summer). Directed by relative newcomer Trey Edward Shults, It Comes At Night is moody, powerful, suspenseful and dark. But it is also frustratingly coy, using symbols, lighting and sound to convey ideas where a simple plot device would work better. It is, in my estimation, a perfect film for cinema buffs, but not quite the movie that most people perceived it to be after a quick watch of the trailer.
The Blu-ray/DVD releases on September 12 from Lionsgate. Given the low budget of the film and its modest box office take ($13 million), this isn’t a product bursting at the seams with special features. Viewers are treated to the always-present audio commentary and a half-hour making-of special entitled “Human Nature: Creating It Comes At Night.” Before discussing those, I’d like to just gripe for a second: nobody buys a movie hoping for a stream of trailers before getting to the main menu. Making some trailers accessible in the special features section is fine, but four or five before I even get to the menu? Seriously, Lionsgate?
Moving on, “Human Nature” is a pretty standard half-hour behind-the-scenes piece. We get interviews with all of the primary actors, some interesting shots of a few set pieces, and better commentary than the audio provided over the film (more on that in a bit). While the feature here was fine, I feel like they really missed an excellent opportunity to discuss what makes It Comes At Night special. The movie was shot on a low budget, but has some of the more impressive cinematography and sound mixing you’ll find in a film this year. How all of that was accomplished with the resources provided to Shults and his team would have been fascinating. Instead, what we get is rote and feels like the bare minimum.
Alas, the audio commentary feels like even less of a bonus. We get to hear the director, Shults, and one of the actors, Kelvin Harrison, Jr., who plays an important role in the film but whose overall contribution feels like a perfunctory addition to the commentary. The two trade on-set stories and have some good laughs, but over and over again I just found myself wishing Shults would spend more time talking about his filmmaking style, influences, mistakes, accomplishments, really anything other than killing time with the young (but excellent actor) Harrison, Jr.
If I found anything rewarding from the Blu-ray/DVD, it was a bit of semi-closure on It Comes At Night‘s awkward ending. In “Human Nature,” Shults seems to admit to struggling to find some balance between the story and emotions that he wants to convey and a movie which is more palatable to mass audiences. Everyone is sure to make their own decision about how effective he is at this, but one thing is clear, the Blu-ray/DVD effort here is a missed opportunity.
Pick it up if you are interested in re-watching the movie repeatedly. The film is well made from a technical standpoint and the acting performances are spot on, sometimes even harrowing to watch. In reviewing this film, I was caught up again in just how great everything looks and sounds. The energy on screen tingles at every moment. It’s at times simply exhilarating.
Skip it if you liked the movie but are looking for more from the director and crew. What could have been a wonderful addition to a film student’s library instead is an obviously overlooked release of a film which performed admirably, if not astoundingly, at the box office.
The It Comes At Night Blu-ray and DVD will be available for the suggested retail price of $24.99 and $19.98, respectively.
Did you check this movie out in theaters? Gonna get the DVD? Let me know at @LRM_Brian or down in the comments below!