As a little child I had a recurring nightmare of a red specter floating at the end of a long, dark hallway, turned away from me. I knew if she (because it was certainly a she) turned to look at me I would die, or something such. Years later my parents divorced and my mother and I moved into the upstairs half of a home owned by some friends of hers, and I found the hallway from my dream in the realm of very real life - the hall stretching between my mother's room and my own was the same, straight out of my brain. I knew it as soon as I saw it.
And so I spent the majority of my teenage years, as we lived in that home, expecting that red specter to greet me every time I went to the bathroom in the middle of the night, every time I got home late. I'd run up and down the staircase, fling my door open and shut, but it never made much difference - I was always looking that way, expecting to see her there five inches over the floor, just on the brink of turning, always the brink, beckoning at the corner of my eye. No wonder I love horror -- it found me first.
I brought that red specter with me into the theater to watch It Comes At Night - she is always with me, even today - and the curtains drew open and the director Trey Edward Shults reflected my old friend right back at me from the screen. You've no doubt seen the image - the trailer like the film itself centers it - of a long hallway with a forbidding red door at the end. Forbidding, forbidden - do not open at night, never at night, because it, that everlasting unquantifiable "it" of Poe and HP, comes at night. They are one and the same, our fears - open and deepening darkness, cut red, so red.
It Comes at Night is a small primal scream of a fable about opening the door. Reality and dreams, of both the warm and decent and the awful sorts, cohabitate behind flimsy planes of plywood sheets and damp door-frames. Something is always knocking - the sound design is muffled and sudden, like somebody's laughing at you from the attic. Creeping, whispering its fingers against the other side of the wall. You can feel its breathing inside of your bones.
The tale is shorter and smaller than you're expecting - the world is mostly short and small, after all. There are only so many people that can fit - a box in the woods in the dark in the night only has so much space, and most of it is already taken up by ghosts, by red specters, by bad omens and dirty fingers and our own bottomless wells of grief and guilt and thick, clingy, humid despair, born from somewhere before us. We are awash in sin - it falls off us in clumps.