There’s this song by a band called THE CHAMELEONS that has haunted me for decades. It’s called “Swamp Thing” and it’s so epic in my head. It starts out stomping ominously and then it twists into some kind of dark poetic hurricane and then it breaks into this strange inspirational anthem type-thing. I’m not sure exactly what it’s about but I always got a sense that it was generally about withstanding the inevitable storms of life and living to see better weather. Anyway, there’s a line in the song “When the world is too much with me…” which particularly resonates in my noggin. I always assumed it amounted to “When things get to be too much” and so I’d use it to advise myself like, “The world is too much with you- you should go to bed.” A little tiny bit o’ research (i.e. Google) has led me to understand it’s probably a reference to a poem by William Wordsworth entitled “The World is Too Much With Us” which is about how maybe you should stop selling your soul to materialism and go for a walk in the woods. This is good advice! The other day the world was “too much with me” and instead of going to the woods, I went to the movie theater to escape and find solace and boy, was I ever so sorry I did.
And yes, I do go to horror movies to feel better and lift my spirits. They’re thrilling, are often about overcoming adversity and if all else fails, tend to make your problems seem quaint in comparison. I didn’t know much about IT COMES AT NIGHT, which is how I like it. Based on the trailer, it looked like the perfect antidote because it apparently featured a cabin, lots of lantern light and a threatening red door. I did know it was from the fine folks at A24 and that should have clued me in that it wasn’t going to be traditional fare but hey, I was desperate and how could I resist this film’s intriguing title? I can’t criticize IT COMES AT NIGHT for being a bad movie because it’s not a bad movie; it’s fantastic, it’s challenging, it’s art! The acting (jeez, that JOEL EDGERTON– he couldn’t be better) is exceptional, the writing keeps you on your toes and I love the whole look and feel of it. There are all these great earthy, muted woodsy hues and it feels lived in and it’s welcomingly housebound. I love a movie with a limited setting (I could hang out in 10 CLOVERFILED LANE, all day!) but this movie kicked me in the gut. It’s basically an avalanche of dread (as it has a right to be – who said horror is fun?) and I myself, had a hard time crawling out from under it. I did end up respecting its gloomy consistency but I have a feeling it’s going on my list of movies I’ll never watch again.
Can I think it’s semi-brilliant and also hate it? It’s basically everything I wanted to escape when I went to the theater. It seems to have a real problem with William Wordsworth too because it wants you to know that even if you strip away industry, technology and modern social constructs, paranoid, poisonous humans will find a way to commit the worst atrocities under the guise of protecting their own. They even drug a lovable dog into this chunky porridge of desolation! I wasn’t having it, I wasn’t having it one bit. You know when Pieter Bruegel the Elder‘s painting “The Triumph of Death” provides a lively respite from the persistent morbidity, you’re in trouble.
Oh, I forgot to tell you what it’s about! There’s a plague and so everybody has gone insane and these two families try to join forces to better their survival chances and then destroy each other instead. It’s super stressful and then the worst possible conclusion happens (I won’t reveal the ending but there’s an ultimate moment of inhumanity that results in some of the most authentic howls of grief I’ve ever heard in a movie (ELVIS’ granddaughter RILEY KEOUGH really goes there-she’s tops). I had to sneak into WONDER WOMAN afterwards just to clear my head (I would have done that anyway). So, in closing, I do not recommend this movie if you’re looking for a good time and now I’m going to listen to some records by THE CHAMELEONS. I dunno, it was too much for me and yet not enough for me. Maybe I’m getting sensitive in my old age? Anyway, if writer/director TREY EDWARD SHULTZ was trying to ruin my day….success! I just want to to high-five this film’s indisputable craftsmanship and its impeccable performances (especially EDGERTON and KEOUGH) and then tip-toe away from it, never looking back…
…but I can’t stop thinking about it and now I’ve got another line from that CHAMELEONS song stuck in my head, “Stop staring at the ground”.