Horrorifica

This will probably contain spoilers for several recent-ish horror movies.

In the past few years, there’s been something of a spate of horror (or horror-adjacent) movies that aren’t just good horror flicks, but are good movies in and of themselves with regards to acting, cinematography, theming, etc. Of course, your milage may vary for what constitutes a “good” movie, and a lot of these recent movies are rather unconventional by horror trope standards, accompanied by advertising campaigns that some might consider misleading. So plenty of people are going in to these movies with their expectations having been built a particular way by the marketing, and wind up disappointed that it turned out to be something else entirely.

The most recent offender is It Comes at Night. I’m going to come right out and say that the scariest part of this movie was the poster.

It is a pretty sweet poster

Every aspect about the marketing push behind this film was criminally misleading, right down to the title. There is no titular “it” that comes at night. There’s not even a metaphorical “it,” like paranoia or suspicion. A more accurate title would be “Some Unrelated Events Happen at Night,” but that’s nowhere near as catchy.

It’s categorization as a horror movie is debatable. I’d be more inclined to say it’s a low-grade thriller with a couple horror elements in the mix where nothing much really happens until the third act where we get one incredibly tense sequence for the climax. Structurally, the third act stretched out to fill the whole movie would have made a more interesting film for me, as that was where all the suspense, stakes, and tension were invested. Most of the rest of the movie is decidedly non-thrilling and non-suspenseful, with a few notable exceptions that don’t linger on screen for very long.

The thing is, though, that while I found the movie to be aggressively boring and felt a little bit the victim of a deliberately misleading title and advertising, it really is hard to stop thinking about. There are a bevy of unanswered questions at the end of the movie, but I don’t feel cheated for not having the answers because they ultimately don’t matter to the story being told. It resonates with the fact that you don’t get all the answers in life and consequently makes it feel that much more relatable.

On a technical level, it was gorgeous to watch and well-acted. So if a movie is competently made and ultimately thought provoking, can it really be said to be a bad movie? Thought provoking in itself.

Recursive thought provocation.

I’ve seen this cinematic bait and switch compared to the marketing for It Follow, which does not track for me at all. It Follows was exactly the movie the trailers said it would be. Yes, the final confrontation in the third act was an unconventional climax and things weren’t resolved, but I still thought it was an incredibly anxiety-inducing movie with tons of tension. Plus, you know, the soundtrack was pretty great.

Something that really ground my gears about the movie, though, were people complaining that the rules that governed the behavior of the entity were somehow inconsistent. The fuck? No, the rules weren’t inconsistent.

The characters just got some of the rules wrong.

The only source of any rules whatsoever in the movie comes from the guy who passes the curse on to the protagonist, and they’re only based on his own experience in dealing with it. Why would anyone have the expectation that he would know every in and out of the being’s behavior? Right from the start, he errs in his recitation of the rules: He claims that It is always walking toward its target and never stops. But even before he says this, we know it’s not true. In the movie theater, he points out the girl in the yellow dress that Jay can’t see who’s standing at the entrance to the theater. Standing, not walking. This is witnessed again when It’s spotted standing on the roof of Jay’s home as the characters leave to go prepare the final confrontation. It never come out and says it explicitly, but the movie clearly demonstrates that the characters are working with incomplete knowledge.

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