Film Review: It Comes At Night (2017)

Release Date: April 29th, 2017 (Timberline Lodge premiere)
Directed by: Trey Edward Shults
Written by: Trey Edwards Shults
Music by: Brian McOmber
Cast: Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Riley Keough

Animal Kingdom, A24, 91 Minutes

Review:

I went into this movie really knowing nothing about it. I never saw a trailer for it and it came out and got lost in the shuffle of the summer blockbusters. However, I did notice its pretty high rating on Rotten Tomatoes and thought it was a horror film worth checking out.

While considered horror, it really isn’t. It is more of a dark thriller with some mystery. There aren’t really any monsters or creatures to worry about and the title and marketing of the film are pretty misleading, in my opinion. Yes, there is a lot of nighttime darkness in the film but there is no clear indication of what “It” is. And really, “It” doesn’t exist. The real threat is what happens when people with good intentions can’t trust one another and are overcome by paranoia. If that is the “It” from the title, it’s a massive disappointment.

The film, like its title, is full of red herrings. So many red herrings in fact that it becomes tedious keeping up with them and ultimately, none of them matter. The story opens up a lot of avenues and mysteries to explore but then never goes down those paths. While the film does a great job of reeling you in and building suspense for the first 90 percent, the last 10 percent is an anticlimactic clusterfuck that makes most of that previous 90 percent inconsequential and pointless.

The idea behind this film also isn’t anything new. These ideas and these aspects of human nature have been explored in just about every episode of The Walking Dead, and much more effectively. Hell, we’ve seen this story play out in countless zombies movies and really anything that is set in a post-apocalyptic world.

The positives of the film aren’t enough to save it.

The acting is pretty good but most of that is due to Joel Edgerton, who impresses me more and more with each picture, taking on the bulk of the acting duties. His son, played by Kelvin Harrison Jr., does a good job being the eyes and emotion of the audience but he doesn’t really get to evolve or explore his character other than emotionally reacting to his world and his loved ones crumbling around him.

The cinematography is also a strong positive. While it isn’t anything groundbreaking, the tone of the film is probably the most effective thing about it. The house is welcoming during the day but a dark and dreadful place at night. The long dark corridor to the back door is really a character all its own.

I can’t say that I was disappointed with the film, as I went into it blindly and without expectations. However, as it rolled on, my expectations rose only to have them slapped back down when the climax arrived.

Film Review: Alien: Covenant (2017)

Release Date: May 4th, 2017 (Leicester Square premiere)
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Written by: John Logan, Dante Harper, Jack Paglen, Michael Green
Music by: Jed Kurzel
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Carmen Ejogo, Demián Bichir, Guy Pearce, James Franco

Scott Free Productions, 20th Century Fox, 123 Minutes

Review:

Well, Alien: Covenant finally came out. We’re eight Alien movies deep into the franchise now, if you count the two Alien v. Predator movies (which you actually shouldn’t). Also, this one is a direct sequel to Prometheus and part of the prequel series of films leading up to the original Alien. This is also the third of these films directed by the man behind the franchise, Ridley Scott.

While I generally liked the first prequel, Prometheus, I was never in love with it and it made the whole Alien mythos more confusing. Well, Alien: Covenant does more of the same in an attempt to connect some of the unconnected dots after Prometheus shook the snow globe to hell.

The problem with Alien: Covenant is that it shakes the snow globe even more. I’ve really just gotten to the point where I’m kind of dismissing a lot of the plot details in an effort to not let these films take anything away from the near masterpiece of the original Alien.

One thing is clear though, despite Ridley Scott saying he had a big plan for how all of these films lead to Alien, the people behind these movies are just making stuff up on the fly. There doesn’t seem to be a real plan, it’s sort of like, “Well, we’ve done this, so now how do we get from here to there?” I guess we won’t know for sure until the next film comes out but I can’t see how this is all going to magically come together and make a lick of sense. While I’m not a fan of having to over explain a movie, these films have painted themselves into a corner now and it’s almost necessary to have to spell everything out. Keeping things sort of ambiguous with a few minor reveals, here and there, just makes these films annoying.

Now the acting is top notch and the cast was pretty impressive. I was especially impressed with how good Danny McBride was in a serious role. I hope this opens some more doors for him. I also liked seeing Demián Bichir, as he is starting to get a lot more work and always brings some gravitas and style to a film. Katherine Waterson was a sort of proto-Ripley the same way that Noomi Rapace was in Prometheus but she doesn’t bring it like Rapace did. She’s good but she’s not the great character that Dr. Elizabeth Shaw or Ellen Ripley were.

The effects were a mixed bag. Everything was solid until the final third of the film. The battle on the crane ship was kind of hokey and the CGI was clunky in parts. It was almost comically bad and really ruined the tone of the film. Also, McBride is the pilot. He has one job and he really sucked at it. But at least we got a real alien xenomorph in the sequence.

One scene that worked really well though, was when our marooned heroes had to battle the albino xenomorphs in the grass field. It reminded me of that awesome velociraptor grassland scene from The Lost World where you see people running and raptor tails perking up above the tall grass as they stealthily pick people off.

Also, the scene where the android David is face-to-face with the tall albino xenomorph was really cool until Billy Crudup screwed it up. I wanted to see David communicate with the creature and to see where that was going to go, as he sees these homicidal beasts as his children.

Ultimately, Alien: Covenant is the worst of the three Alien films directed by Scott. It is not a bad film but it doesn’t really seem to have much of a purpose. It advances David’s story beyond Prometheus but nothing about his character or his motivations is surprising. The big twist involving him at the end is not shocking and it was actually anticipated.

Alien: Covenant is really a dud. I’d much rather see them make the Neill Blomkamp proposed Alien movie that features Ellen Ripley and Cpl. Hicks.