Director Darren Aronofsky is not known for subtlety or crowd-pleasing. Afterall, his indie debut featured a mathematician obsessed with pi and orthodox Jews who thought his work was discovering the true name of God. He delved deep into every facet of drug abuse, focused a character study around a wrestler, used high-end ballet as a backdrop for a psychological thriller, and put Rock Giants in the story of Noah’s Ark. “Iconoclast” probably doesn’t do him justice.
Consistency of tone is essential for a successful psychological horror story. In It Comes at Night, writer-director Trey Edward Shultz establishes an unyielding bleakness that completely permeates the entirety of his post-apocalyptic story. The constant pressure of this mood grows and oppresses the viewer, like an emotional constrictor squeezing all hope and joy from the proceedings. In short: It Comes at Night is not a fun or pleasant viewing experience, and it is clear from the opening shot that this is not a world where things turn out well. Its dogged pursuit of desolation is not mere pessimism – it’s an exploration of human fear, mistrust, and desperation.
One of the trailers that played before Avengers: Age of Ultron this weekend was a psychological science fiction thriller starring Ryan Reynolds, Matthew Goode, and Ben Kingsley called Self/less. The trailer, which can be seen here, is intriguing, but may reveal too much of the plot for my liking. Kingsley plays a billionaire genius stricken with a terminal disease. He is contacted by a mad scientist type (Goode) who gives him the chance to transfer his consciousness into a younger body (Reynolds). This is cool for a while, until he learns that his old body wasn’t just some empty vessel. The old consciousness starts to creep back in, and he learns that this procedure has some nefarious drawbacks. Hopefully there is a little more nuance to the story than just the younger consciousness fighting back, because the concept of feeling your own consciousness being replaced by another could be a great dramatization of dealing with death. There are definitely some cool ideas here, and I would like to see how they are developed.