‘It Comes At Night’ is a horror film whose narrative preys upon the tension between its characters stuck in a post-apocalyptic setting to deliver a bone-chilling tale of terror. In a remote forest, isolated from cities or other social squares, Paul keeps his family, Sarah & Travis, safe in their well-fortified house, with effective rules and regulations in place, giving structure to their bleak lives. However, a unique danger still manages to enter their home when they are compelled to share their space with another family, Will, Kim, and their young son, Andrew.
In the film’s narrative, Paul and Will strive to keep their families safe at any and all costs. While one of the potential threats, a fatal contagious disease, appears on-screen, there’s another horror that lies beyond the house walls that remains unnamed. Therefore, as Stanley, the dog who belongs to Travis’ dead grandfather, runs out into the deep forest, viewers are bound to worry about the loyal pup and wonder about its ultimate predicament. SPOILERS AHEAD!
Stanley’s Unsolved Death
Yes, Stanley, Travis’ dog, dies in ‘It Comes At Night.’ Even though the nature of the horror beyond the house is kept a secret within the film’s text, the characters seem aware and vigilant of it. As such, Paul has rules about not leaving the house’s safehold at night and traversing into the wild with a partner at all times. While these precautions are in place, partly to maintain safety from other more violent survivors, the existence of a bigger and unnatural threat remains.
For the same reason, once Stanley runs out into the woods on his own, Paul and Will discourage Travis from following after him. The older men are not only worried about Stanley leading them down a wild goose chase. Instead, there’s something within the forest that unnerves them. Likewise, Travis, who has had to live in this post-sickness reality for a while now, also understands and agrees to return home.
Thus, Stanley, who appeared to have followed after some phantom noise, remains in the woods all alone as the night falls. Since Stanley has been in the family for a long time, owned by Sarah’s recently deceased father, Bud, Travis and his family clearly care about the dog and want to ensure his safety. Nevertheless, whatever lurks outside in the forest scares the family enough to keep them back.
Eventually, as the darkness outside persists, Travis wakes from one of his routine nightmares. Only this time, he dreams of leaving the house and finding Stanley in a brutal altercation with the unnamed outside horror. Is it a monstrous creature or undead, zombie-like remnants of people who succumbed to the illness before dying? The narrative never discloses explicitly. As the boy wakes from the jarring dream, a noise compels him to check out the house’s outer porch— the first line of security. However, when he sees the front red door open, Travis immediately knows something is wrong and reaches out to his father.
As a result, once Paul and Will venture onto the outer porch to check the danger, they come across a severely injured and bloodied Stanley, whimpering in pain. The poor dog fell victim to whatever greater evil lies in the forest. Somehow, the dog returned to the house, where he heaved his last breaths. Given Stanley’s injuries, Paul knows there’s no hope left for him. Even if they’re able to patch Stanley up, the outside world has already infected him, implying that the outside evil can pass the sickness onto individuals.
Ultimately, Stanley meets his brutal fate after Paul and Will take the dog out into the yard, where they took his owner, Grandpa Bud after he caught the sickness. Inside, Travis tries to hold himself together, faced with the reality of losing his best friend. As the gunshot sound reverberates through the house, signifying Paul shooting Stanley to put him out of his misery, Travis breaks down. In the end, Stanley dies due to the unnamed plague that has overtaken the world, and his death becomes a catalyst in Travis and his family’s fates.
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