The Brilliance of “It Comes at Night”


“A wrongly marketed gem”

It’s a sentence that perfectly describes the new creation of Trey Edward Shults, which is a film that the trailers made to look like it belonged in the horror genre, while it actually is a slow paced psychological thriller, which doesn’t tablespoon all the information. This explains why the viewers only gave it a 43 percent on rottentomatoes, while the critics themselves gave the film 87 percent. But as I had heard other people say that I shouldn’t watch any trailers, I didn’t. I went in practically with a blank sleight of paper, only knowing a very vague description what the film was about.

Carmen Ejogo and Riley Keough in “It Comes at Night” – 2017

A lot of the backlash the movie has gotten lies within the title itself.  People think that the “it” in the title stands for a monster, or something else, something physical, something scary. But that’s not what people got; in fact, they nearly got no questions answered. They don’t answer the question: what is “it”? The trailers also didn’t really help with making clear that there is no “it”, well at least not in the form of a monster. In the trailer, Paul is explaining the rules they have at the house. At one point he says that the most important rule of them all is that they don’t go out at night and right before that, they show the dog, Stanley, barking at nothing, insinuating that there is a monster and that “it” comes at night. Just take a look at the trailer yourself, which is nonetheless a good trailer, it’s just misleading.  The part I was talking about takes place at around 56 seconds into the trailer.

But what does the “it” stand for, if there isn’t a monster, or is the title itself a lie? No, it’s not a lie, it’s even a well-chosen title. The title is a metaphor. The “it” stands for the sleepwalking Travis and Andrew have been doing and also for the nightmares they’ve been having. But why have this as the title? Because nightmares are the first symptom you’ll have when you’ve been affected, the characters just don’t know yet. They think that the rash is practically the only symptom there is, while there are more, just not visible ones.

The metaphors don’t stop there, though. In the beginning of the film, we get shown every detail of a painting made by Pieter Bruegel, which carries the lovely and peaceful name The Triumph of Death. At the end of this paragraph, you’ll be able to see the painting. But what does the painting mean and what can we see on it? Well, there’s a lot of death on the painting, as the title suggests, but also Catholic elements. We see a Catholic cross surrounded by skeletons, there’s a black sky, accentuating the macabre feel of the painting, but also symbolizing all the death and angst that is going on. We see an army of skeletons, who’re killing everyone on their path, they don’t make any exception for children, men, women. Nor do they differ the rich (look in the right-hand corner) of the poor, or the Catholics of everyone else: everyone is the same to them.  It is a true apocalypse. Everyone is equal to death. It doesn’t matter which function you had before you died, you’ll meet the same kind of death as any other living human being. And in the context of when this painting was made, the Skeleton Army probably represents the Black Death, also known as the plague.


Triumph of Death – Pieter Bruegel


And that’s why I, as many others, believe the painting is a metaphor for the movie. In the movie, we don’t have the same Black Death as we had in the Middle Ages, we have a modern incarnation of it. Back in the day, they didn’t know what the cause of the Black Death was so they blamed the minorities who, according to them, had poisoned the water sources. In the movie, we get small references to that. Water seems to be scarce since Will came looking for some. But wouldn’t there have been any lakes or rivers on the way? So why wouldn’t he have drunk out of them? mv5bmtq5njdimgitytnmmi00zjfmlwjmotktytqwmdqyytixnwvjl2ltywdlxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyntazmty4mda-_v1_sy1000_cr006751000_al_That’s probably because it was poisoned. That’s why I also think that Stanley has passed away: he drank out of a river. But there are more clues hidden throughout the film indicating that it is a modern incarnation of the Black Death, namely the symptoms you can see when someone has been infected.  It takes about a week for the disease to settle in. Then you’ll feel sick, nauseous, you’ll get headaches… But also a sense of fatigue, insomnia; something both Travis and Andrew had. Within twenty-four hours, just like in the film, Lymph glands start to swell up and you get bumps all over your body, which you can also see in the film. In the film they’ve added black eyes and puking black liquid (at least in the dream sequences) to these previously named symptoms, to make it clearer that the film’s disease is a modern version of the Black Death.

In the end of the film, everybody dies, as you probably got from watching the film. Andrew was infected, as we already suspected from his nightmares, but then it’s also confirmed by Will, who says that Andrew mustn’t open his eyes. Not only Andrew but also Travis was infected. Their parents had gotten the disease of their children by touch, a way the disease could be transferred both in the film, but in the Middle Ages, the Black Plague was probably transferred by fleas among other animals/insects, brought over via touch. At the end of the film, we see Travis die, while his mom is looking down on him,  with black eyes, telling him to let go. The film then ends with a shot of Paul and Sarah, sitting in front of each other at the dining table, slowly waiting for death to come. With them sitting there, the film fades to black, ending on a dark, but beautiful note.

Images via: IMDb

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