The 2017 mystery horror film ‘It Comes At Night’ presents a story about a family’s fight for survival when paranoia, distrust, and selfish impulses rule their waking days and nights. As an inexplicable sickness takes over human society, Paul manages to keep his wife, Sarah, and teenager, Travis, safe in an isolated house. Thus, Paul makes strict rules and domestic routine his number one priority to ensure his family’s safety. However, things take an unexpected turn when a stranger arrives at their fortified cabin. Crossing paths with Will, Kim, and their young son, Andrew, Paul finds himself faced with another family desperate for survival.
However, after the two families join forces, their distrust and cynicism brew as violently as the threats outside the walls of their safe house. ‘It Comes At Night’ harvests its source of horror from a psychological terror of slowing deteriorating humanity in the name of love and self-preservation. As such, the film’s conclusion remains bleak and horror-filled yet leaves many questions behind about the abject truth of things. SPOILERS AHEAD!
It Comes At Night Plot Synopsis
As the world around them goes to ruin, Paul’s family suffers a personal loss with the looming death of his father-in-law, Bud. Despite the safety precautions instilled in the house, Bud somehow catches the sickness plaguing the outside world and becomes infected. As a result, black patches take up residence on his skin, and mindlessness persists. Consequently, Paul and his seventeen-year-old son, Travis, carry Bud’s body out to the forest, where the former gives him a swift death via a bullet and burns his body inside a grave.
Of course, as Paul and Travis go through these rituals, they remain covered with safety gear from head to toe. Bud’s death, especially the quiet but violent nature of it, shakes Travis up a bit, but he finds some solace in his grandfather’s beloved dog, Stanley. Yet, the same night that Bud’s absence lingers in the house, a new individual attempts to break in. Prepared for such a situation, Paul immediately goes into combat mode after Travis alerts him of the intrusion.
At the house’s walled-in front porch, Paul meets a man who claims to be alone and unaware of the family’s residence. Nevertheless, never one to take a chance, Paul knocks the other man out and ties him to a tree outside for the rest of the day. Once he’s satisfied that the man is truly alone, he interrogates him for some answers. The other man, Will, tells Paul about his own family living in an abandoned home nearby. However, they are running low on water. Hence, Will traveled so far to find supplies.
Furthermore, Will pitches Paul a deal to trade some of their water supply for his food resources. Paul and Sarah realize that the best course of action is to take tale Will’s family in with them since it lessens the chances of them bringing other trouble to their door. Moreover, the other family’s food resources and added numbers will help them improve their overall survival chances.
Therefore, Paul decides to travel to Will’s family and stay with them for three days to ensure none of them are infected. As a result, Will and his family eventually come to live at Paul’s house, where he fills them up on all his rules and regulations. The two families end up getting along exceptionally well. However, trouble knocks on their short-lived happiness when Stanley runs away into the woods one day after hearing a peculiar noise.
Although Paul convinces Travis that Stanley will return on its own, the dog remains lost well throughout the day. That is until, the following night, a restless Travis hears a bang on the front door and sees the red door to the porch open. After Paul and Will wake, they find a severely injured Stanley inside the porch. Although the men put poor Stanley out of his misery, the real trouble arises when Travis reveals that he didn’t open the red door.
It Comes At Night: Why Do Paul and Sarah Kill Will’s Family?
Once Travis reveals that he wasn’t the one to open the red door, the two families find themselves facing a precarious discussion. While no one knows how Stanley got fatally injured, it’s clear that someone or something attacked the dog. As such, being in close proximity to it without wearing masks can expose any individual to the sickness that laces the air outside. However, Travis insists that he didn’t open the door or even peeked outside of it.
Furthermore, Travis pitches the theory that perhaps little Andrew opened the door. Earlier, Travis found the kid asleep on his grandfather’s bedroom floor. As such, he assumes the kid has a sleepwalking problem and could have potentially unlocked the door in his sleep. Nevertheless, since no one else knows about Andrew’s alleged sleepwalking habit, they have to take Travis’ word for it.
Worse yet, if the kid does sleepwalk, it opens up the possibility that Andrew could have ventured out of the door and gotten exposed to the sickness from Stanley. For the same reasons, Will and Kim remain reluctant to believe that theory. On the other hand, from their perspective, if Travis is lying about Andrew, then it’s possible that he’s the one who opened the door, ventured past, and got infected.
As such, the two families arrive at a disagreement. Neither wants to believe their son could have the dreaded sickness, which leaves them with the alternative to assume that the other boy must. Consequently, Paul comes up with the decision to isolate both families into their respective rooms for the night to wait for any developments.
Paul knows from Bud’s experience that the sickness shows symptoms fast. Therefore, whoever is infected should start showcasing signs of it soon. The next morning, Travis wakes after a nightmare about having contracted the same illness as Bud before he hears the sounds of Andrew crying from the other side of the house.
Thus, Paul and Sarah realize something must be wrong with the kid. However, they can’t simply allow Will and his family to leave. Since Will and Kim know about their residence now, Paul and Sarah believe they will never be safe from them. Even if they take a civil exit now, they can always return if desperation strikes hard enough. Following the same line of thinking, the couple confronts Andrew’s parents in their room with guns.
Still, Will is prepared for such an outcome and tries to hold Paul hostage at gunpoint to ensure his family can leave the house’s premises with their fair share of supplies without any trouble. In the altercation that follows, Will and Kim attempt to flee from the scene, but the latter falls victim to Sarah’s shooting. Similarly, Paul’s bullet, aimed at Kim, catches Andrew, killing the young kid on the spot.
As Kim mourns the devastating loss, Paul pulls the trigger on the mother as well. Ultimately, Paul kills Will and his family in the name of keeping his own safe. Nonetheless, his moral sacrifice ends up being for nothing since Travis soon wakes with the same black patches on his skin as his grandfather had. Despite Paul’s best attempts, his son becomes infected and meets a similar end as Bud, Stanley, Will, Kim, and Andrew, leaving his parents alone to reconcile with their new reality.
Who Opened The Red Door?
In the bleak aftermath of everything, the one question of any value that remains is the mystery of who opened the door to the house’s porch. Although Paul and his family run with the theory that Andrew was the one who opened the door, the idea that a kid of his young could unlock the door while sleepwalking seems suspicious. However, Andrew’s cries and his parents’ desperation to flee from the house suggest that the kid is truly infected.
On the other hand, Travis can also be another possible suspect. Even though the audience witnesses the door standing ajar when Travis finds it, his character is hardly the most reliable narrator. Throughout the film, Travis’ anxiety and nervousness manifest in the form of increasingly concerning nightmares. These dreams remain reflective of the boy’s mental state and often only become surreal toward the end.
Therefore, it is possible that rather than Andrew, Travis is the one with a sleepwalking habit. The latter’s established sleeping issues support the theory as well. Furthermore, since Andrew meets an untimely end before he can start showcasing tangible signs of sickness, we only have canonical proof of Travis’ illness. Whether Travis caught it from Andrew or Stanley is an equally likely bet.
If Andrew was truly not infected, Will likely realizes that Paul’s paranoia puts his family in grave danger. Despite the good times the two families had together, Paul held onto the idea that Will could be lying to him, often trying to catch an inconsistency in his story. Therefore, Will knows that if Paul believes Kim and Andrew are dangerous for Sarah and Travis, he will do everything in his power to protect his own family.
Perhaps for the same reason, Will and Kim decided to run away, knowing they would never be safe with Paul. Likewise, Andrew’s insistent crying could have simply been a result of his unwillingness to leave the house since the kid wouldn’t understand his parents’ complicated reasonings. Should the audience choose to believe that alternative, they would have to reconcile with the fact that Paul killed innocent Andrew and his blameless parents on a paranoid hunch that turns out to be false.
In the end, the narrative never explicitly states whether Andrew or Travis opened the red door. Nonetheless, Paul and Sarah, who killed people in cold blood and still lost their boy, will have to live with the same uncertainty. Ultimately, the red door is meant to make people evaluate the situation on their own terms and reflect on whatever answer they choose to believe.