You know what I was doing before my theater cohorts and I decided to come in after hours and put on It Comes At Night? I was finally getting started on that damn good Twin Peaks everyone has been talking about. No not the current revival season, but the original season from 1991 since it’s on Netflix. Because for some convoluted reason I have never gotten into David Lynch’s filmography. Which considering how I constantly hoot and holler about how cinema lacks gumption to indulge in weird and bizarre shit, you would think I would be well versed in this acclaimed director’s work? Well I’m not. I’m a fucking fraud and I should be run out of town. So as I’m remedying this, I had maybe not as instantaneous as a reaction to Twin Peaks as something like Night of the Creeps which I just clicked with immediately; but by the time Kyle McLaughlin’s FBI Agent Dale Cooper strolls impressively into frame and starts very specifically detailing all the fine points about his day to Diane, I fucking got it. It’s almost Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker-esque in how it plays this tragedy of Laura Palmer about 99% straight before throwing an odd music cue or a police officer who cannot keep his shit together and keeps bawling at the crime he has to report to. Most of my enjoyment so far has come from Cooper whose cadence and brilliance is parallel to his non-sequitors which have already gotten many a hardy laugh out of me. I love Dale Cooper. More Dale Cooper and his penchant for exquisitely prepared breakfast accommodations please.
Oh yeah and then I stopped all that fun to go watch this boring piece of crap. (I’m feeling very candid tonight because it’s already going on 4 am and I’ve been on a writing hiatus for a few months now so you get my word vomit).
On the subject of television series, It Comes At Night reminded me very much so of The Walking Dead and exactly the reason I have never engaged with that show. “Oh but you love horror movies so you must watch it right?” Some people have asked of me*, which:
1. Shut up. 2. I’m all for a good zombie story but they’re not my choice of monster. And most importantly 3. That is some boring as fuck television.
To devote so much time to a series of perpetual misery and hopelessness seems incredibly redundant to me, and that I will give this movie its due in that it surmises everything I don’t like about that show in just one condensed story that many people who hate-watch TWD seem to be unable to disengage with. But that is the problem I’m having here in a nutshell: the end of humanity setting can stimulate good conversation about the morality of mankind but in this case it has nothing really of value to say other than death is gonna get you either through the paranoid hubris of man or because da zambos/zambo-related ailments.
There are elements that work for this movie: it’s setting, it’s actors, the already mentioned paranoid tension which is the driving force of the movie; and the uncertainty of what “It” could be. The problem is that this movie is opting for the minimalistic approach to carry the weight of the themes without actually having anything interesting to show for it other than an extremely played out series of events that are only going to end in violence and a supernatural force of dread that is left completely unexplained in either a contextual or subtextual meaning. This is one of those movies where you see a dog as part of the family. I don’t have to say anything more, you already know what the fuck is gonna happen to that dog. This is a movie that uses nightmares as it’s “scary” moments, the moments that liter the trailer with horrific imagery but then turns most of it is just in someone’s head and there’s no actual supernatural threat at hand.
And I’m so very tired of movies that try to use horrorific imagery to convey some deeper meaning without actually having weight to those images. This movie is almost like an inverse of last year’s The Witch; a movie that showed its hand almost immediately but then drove forward with this revelation that we the audience were aware of but the characters were not thus forcing their paranoia while keeping the audience involved in the tension. Here if there is something that’s at hand, the characters might know about it but we the audience sure don’t and we’re just left with these bits of information that are littered through conversations or through one character’s nightmares which quickly become repetitive once you realize that this movie isn’t actually going to go full out with this dread it’s trying to create.
It’s just a movie about how people would probably act in an apocalyptic situation. They get paranoid, there are accusations, everyone’s gonna die because of fear or something else that’s thematically ironic. (THAT STUPID FUCKING PAINTING). There’s hours and hours of monotonous drama that The Walking Dead was already doing, but I hear there are actually zombies on that show.
BOTTOM LINE: If you need to watch a well received horror film about an “It”, It Follows is still the king. I’ll be over here with my new friend Dale.
*American Horror Story: See point number 1 and then see point number 1.