It Comes at Night (2017) Explained

An Average Movie-Goer’s Review

Spoilers! If you don’t want spoilers – check out the Spoiler-Free post

It Comes at Night (2017) Explained Poster

I love horror movies and if I’m going to watch them anyway, why not write an entertaining/funny review from the POV of an average movie-goer and not a professional critic.

Today we’re looking at 2017’s It Comes at Night

Sometime after a deadly disease takes hold of the country, a family hides out in their home isolated from the world… until they get a visitor.

Is It Comes at Night Scary?

It Comes at Night is not scary but I don’t think the movie intends to be outright horror, its main goal is suspense which works most of the time especially since the audience is left in the dark about what is actually going on.

Detailed Plot:

The movie opens with Sarah (played by Carmen Ejogo) wearing a gas mask and talking to her clearly infected sickly father, Bud. Whatever he’s infected with appears to cause boils on his skin and labored breathing; bringing to mind something like the plague.

She tells him “It’s okay” and to “let go” so right off the bat, this movie is telling us we’re not going to be laughing a whole lot. 

Sarah says goodbye to her infected father in 2017's It Comes at Night
So this won’t be a comedy?

After she apologizes, her husband and son, Paul and Travis (played by Joel Edgerton and Kelvin Harrison Jr respectively) take Bud outside in a wheelbarrow and travel a bit into the woods. There, Paul places a pillow over Bud’s head and shoots him. He then places him in a grave and lights him on fire.

Paul and Travis ignite Sarah's father's body in 2017's It Comes at Night
Oh, hilarious…

We then see a title card for It Comes at Night

At night the family “enjoy” a quiet meal together and we can see Travis and Sarah are distraught over the loss of Bud. While Paul is affected, it appears that he is taking a more logical approach and sees the death as necessary.

Joel Edgerton, Kelvin Harrison Jr, and Carmen Ejogo in 2017's It Comes at Night
The “happy” family

We cut to Travis in the attic overhearing his parents talk about his participation in Bud’s burning. We find out Travis is only seventeen and Sarah feels he is too young to have been involved, but Paul points out he couldn’t have done it alone. 

Travis returns to his room and says goodnight to his dog, Stanley, before falling asleep. That night he has a nightmare where he is walking through the hall toward a red door and finds Bud sitting on a bed. In a jump scare, Bud screams and Travis wakes up to Sarah running in to tell him someone is trying to break into the house.

The two don gas masks and gloves and meet up with Paul who is already downstairs, gun in hand. Paul takes position and points his gun toward the red door that leads to the vestibule of the house. The intruder bangs on the door multiple times, breaks the locks, and opens the door. 

Paul fires missing the intruder but scares him enough to throw him back into the vestibule where Paul chases after.

Paul stops an intruder from breaking in in 2017's It Comes at Night
Wait, is he the “it” from the title? Is the movie over?

Paul checks the intruder’s eyes to make sure he’s not sick then knocks him out with the butt of his gun. As Sarah watches over the unconscious intruder (played by Christopher Abbott) Paul surveys the area to make sure no one else comes at night and because “it” is singular, I think we’re safe.

At dawn, Paul and Travis take the still unconscious intruder, tie him to a tree, place duct tape on his mouth, a bag over his head, and remove his shirt. Why did they take his shirt?

By the way, if he’s been unconscious for that long he probably has brain damage.

We see several shots of the family going about their day and night clearly troubled by the muffled screams of their tied-up intruder. That night Travis has another dream where he wanders out to the woods and sees the intruder staring at him. This sequence has some close-ups of both and it really makes you wonder… why?

The next morning Paul goes out to the intruder and offers him some water if he tells him the truth.

Paul confronts the tied up intruder in 2017's It Comes at Night
“Now you’re probably wondering about your shirt.”

We learn the intruder thought the home was abandoned and was looking for supplies for his family who are about 50 miles away. His family consists of his wife and son who are staying at an abandoned house after their car broke down. Prior to that, the family was staying with his brother but it’s implied he became infected and died.

We also find out that Paul, and possibly most of the people in the world, don’t really know much about what’s going on with the disease. The intruder claims if there’s a grid, he doesn’t even know how to be on it and that he left the city as the infection spread.

The intruder then reveals he has food back at the abandoned house including several chickens and goats. He offers a trade of supplies and Paul agrees.

Christopher Abbott as Will in 2017's It Comes at Night
“I’d also like to trade for a shirt.”

Sarah and Paul later debate what to do as Travis watches on. Sarah recommends they bring the family there, along with the food, as it would be safer and more efficient that way. Paul relents and states since the disease takes a day to present he’ll stay with the intruder’s family for three, just to be certain they’re not infected.

Paul unties the intruder and we get a lingering shot of his face making us think that the intruder was lying. Grabbing supplies and weapons, the intruder sits in the back of the truck as the two set off.

After a few more lingering shots of Travis (for suspense?) and the intruder in the truck, a gunshot hits the truck causing Paul to crash.

Paul is attacked while on the way to Will's home in 2017's It Comes at Night
Maybe the trip to an infected area was a bad idea?

Paul escapes the car, crawls underneath, and looks for the shooter. When the shooter walks out from behind a tree Paul shoots him several times, killing him. We then hear the intruder attacking another man and Paul rushes over. He tells the intruder to get back and shoots the man.

He questions if the intruder knew the attackers and finally asks his name! I was getting tired of writing “the intruder”. Our intruder’s name is Will and he is able to convince Paul he had no idea who the attackers were especially since he was beating the shit out of one.

Paul gives him a mask and gloves and the two take the bodies to bury them in the woods.

Paul and Will work together to bury their attackers in 2017's It Comes at Night
“…dibs on his shirt.”

Three days later Paul returns with Will back to his house along with Will’s wife and son, Kim and Andrew (played by Riley Keough and Griffin Robert Faulkner respectively). 

Later as both families eat together, Paul explains the rules and it sounds like this post-apocalyptic world has been going on for some time. We also learn the red door is the only way out of the house and only Paul and Sarah have keys.

We next see several quick scenes of the families settling in including Will showing Travis how to chop wood, Sarah showing Kim how their filtration system works, Travis coloring with Andrew, and the families playing board games.

Sometime later, it’s not clear how much time has passed, Travis has a dream where he is wandering through the halls and hears Will and Kim having sex. He then appears in his bed with Kim appearing beside him, she straddles him and vomits a black substance into his mouth after kissing him.

Quarantine creates some weird kinks. It’s also clear that Travis has a crush on Kim but that’s not surprising as he hasn’t seen another woman in who knows how long. After he wakes up or maybe it’s on another night, Travis wanders around the house and finds Kim sitting at the table alone. The two talk about not being able to sleep and discuss food.

Things get awkward when Kim catches Travis staring at her chest and she asks his age. After he tells her, she says she wasn’t much older than him when she met Will. Travis then excuses himself and goes to bed.

The following day while the men are chopping wood, Stanley starts barking at something far off into the woods, breaks free from his leash, and chases after something.

Stanley the Dog escapes from his leash in 2017's It Comes at Night
“If I don’t go after this thing it’ll come back at night… maybe!”

Travis chases after Stanley with Will and Paul following after but they lose track of him. In the woods, Travis claims to see something but they find nothing, and all return to the house without Stanley hoping he’ll return on his own.

In a few quick scenes, we see that Travis has grown depressed from losing his dog and is barely eating and now drawing some weird things.

Travis becomes an artist in 2017's It Comes at Night
Weird but good

Later Will and Paul share a drink and they talk about what they used to do before the disease. Things get awkward real quick when Will mentions he’s an only child. Paul points out he said earlier he was staying at his brother’s home but now he’s an only child. 

Will stutters and clarifies that it was Kim’s brother but was close enough to him to feel like he was his brother as well. Paul excuses himself to bed meanwhile we still don’t know what’s coming at night.

That night Travis wakes up hearing Andrew having a nightmare in another room that is definitely not his own room. He wakes him up and brings him to Will and Kim’s room.

Travis finds Andrew sleeping on the floor in 2017's It Comes at Night
Not creepy at all.

On his way back to his room, Travis hears banging coming from the first floor and finds the red door open. After another bang, he runs upstairs to wake up Paul who goes to investigate with Will and the two find a barely alive, bleeding, and sick Stanley in the vestibule.

After telling Travis, Paul and Will kill Stanley and light him on fire. The families then gather at the table and Travis reveals the red door was open before he got there. He questions whether Andrew opened it causing Paul to question whether Andrew sleepwalks. Will points out Andrew is too small to reach the locks.

Not knowing who opened the door to the infected Stanley means someone may be infected already. Paul tells both families to gather enough food and water and quarantine for a couple of days in their respective rooms.

The families agree to quarantine in 2017's It Comes at Night
“I’m also going to want all your shirts.”

In their room, Paul asks Travis if he truly didn’t open the door and then asks if he touched Andrew. Travis tells him he didn’t open the door and did touch Andrew’s hand when he brought him to his room. The implication being if Andrew is infected then Travis may now also be infected.

That night Travis has another nightmare of him wandering through the woods and finding Stanley being attacked by something, though we don’t see what it is. Travis wakes up and vomits a black substance and sees boils all over his arms. He then sees his grandfather sitting in front of him vomiting the same black goo.

David Pendleton as Bud in 2017's It Comes at Night
Why does Paul keep taking shirts?!

This turns out to just be another nightmare and Travis wakes up finding himself devoid of any boils. 

Hearing Andrew crying in the room, Travis goes to the attic and overhears Will and Kim talking about having to leave. Travis returns to his parent’s room and tells Paul that Andrew may be sick… snitch. 

Paul and Sarah debate with Travis on what to do next. It’s clear Paul and Sarah have made up their minds to kill Will, Kim, and Andrew since if they’re sick, they are a risk and if they’re forced to leave they’ll want to take their supplies.

Travis tells them they should just give them some supplies but Paul and Sarah say that if they’re not sick, they’ll return and they’ll be desperate which creates another risk. Travis says if they’re sick then he must be too which Sarah refutes. Sarah and Paul approach Will’s room with weapons.

Sarah and Paul don gas masks and approach Will's room in 2017's It Comes at Night
This will totally not cause a panic

Paul knocks, asking to check on Andrew but Will refuses saying he just had a nightmare and there’s nothing wrong. Paul tells him to open the door and becomes irate causing Will to relent and open. Before allowing him to enter, Will asks him where Sarah and Travis are and uses the distraction to pull a gun on Paul. He then brings him into the room and tells him to take off the mask as no one is sick.

Will holds Paul at gun point in 2017's It Comes at Night
“I’d believe you more if there wasn’t a gun in my face”

Will also tells Andrew to keep his eyes closed, either because he doesn’t want him to see his dad pointing a gun at someone or because his eyes would show signs of infection. So we have no idea if he actually is infected.

Will apologizes to Paul and tells him they’re just going to take a fair share of supplies and leave without anyone getting hurt. As they leave the room, Sarah points her gun at Will and the two agree to lower their guns on the count of three.

After Will lowers his gun Paul takes the opportunity to grab the gun and a struggle ensues. Paul knocks out Will and he and Sarah take the family out to the woods. Will then wakes up and another struggle occurs.

Will knocks the gun out of Paul's hand
“You ain’t taking my shirt again!”

The two fight with Will gaining the upper hand, ripping Paul’s mask off, and punching him repeatedly. Sarah shoots Will in the back causing him to fall and Kim to run with Andrew. Paul quickly rises, grabs his gun, and orders them to stop but when they don’t, he fires.

We then hear Kim’s pained screams and we find out the shot killed Andrew. Travis rushes outside just in time to see Paul kill Kim.

A little while later we see a sick Travis on his bed and Sarah nearby telling him he’s going to be okay and to “let go.” 

Travis infected in 2017's It Comes at Night
“That doesn’t sound like it’s okay.”

Travis closes his eyes and dies. We then see a quick scene of Travis wandering around and walking out of the red door. 

The movie ends with Paul and Sarah at the table with Sarah appearing to be infected. This makes sense as she was not wearing her gas mask when at the foot of Travis’s bed. 

The ending of 2017's It Comes at Night
Not the happiest ending I’ve seen

It Comes at Night (2017) Spoiler Review:

Have you ever watched a post-apocalyptic zombie movie and thought “I wonder what’s happening to regular people who are not characters in this movie?”

That’s exactly what this movie is and it’s surprisingly somewhat interesting. The movie is well-acted and the dialogue feels real, both of these help make the movie entertaining. Nuances in the performances really help telegraph the idea that there is a slight mistrust between Paul and his visitors.

But, if you like movies where you get all or even most of the answers to questions you might have, you probably won’t like this movie. We never find out what causes the disease, what happened to the rest of the world, what happened to Stanley, who opened the red door, or if Andrew was actually infected.

For the purposes of suspense, the movie also has several shots that linger way too long on characters. Sometimes it feels like it’s just trying to remind us characters exist, why did we see a close-up of Travis while Will and Paul drove away? After a few of these shots, it starts to feel way too forced and distracting.

Besides those few minor gripes with the suspense-building, the movie does a good job of making you question what is really going on. You actually stop wondering what the disease affecting everyone is and start caring more about who can be trusted.


Stuff to Ignore

Rotten Tomatoes – 87%

Metacritic – 78

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