It Comes at Night is being touted as a horror movie, but it's actually a somber drama. While 1983's Testament, about the effects of a nuclear attack on a suburban family, is horrifying, it's not a horror movie, and neither is this.
Something like a plague or massive chemical attack has happen in the world. The movie never explains it, but that doesn't matter. All we really need to know is that Earth's population has diminished and survivors keep to themselves and always have gas masks handy. Paul (Joel Edgerton), his wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and their teenage son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) live in their heavily secured house out in the forest. Their lives are altered when a young family arrives seeking refuge.
The movie focuses on teenage Travis as he has bad dreams about death, disease, and his recently deceased grandfather. He also has sexual desires for the young wife (Riley Keough) who is now part of the household.
Trey Edward Shults, who helmed the exceptional 2015 drama Krisha, is writer and director of It Comes at Night, and while this meditation on the fear of death is well made, it is relentlessly depressing. A movie like, say, A Midnight Clear (1992), which concerns a group of WWII soldiers in an isolated cabin with a handful of Germans outside, has moments of joy and humor before it turns to sheer tragedy. That humor infused the story with humanity making you care for the characters. It Comes at Night feels too clinical and also a bit hollow at its core.