At Night Comes Wolves Review-Killer Cults And Obnoxious Men Collide
TJ Marine’s surreal fairy tale, At Night Comes Wolves, is a confounding mix of undercooked ideas that somehow manages to end with a satisfying growl of grim delight.
The enthusiastically confusing domestic abuse meets cult horror story is many things at once, and not all of them are successful. At Night Comes, Wolves will not be for everyone. It is a singularly weird film that doesn’t quite know what it wants to be but is very confident about it. All of that may seem negative, but just as I found the whole experience strange, I found my overall enjoyment of it equally as perplexing.
Leah Schafer, portrayed gamely by Gabi Alves, is a beaten-down wife. Her husband has gaslit her so much she apologizes to him for his hurtful behavior. He is the quintessential toxic male, and after one too many insults, Leah finally has enough. She drives away with nothing but her keys until the gas runs out. The first act, which serves as an introduction to Leah and Daniel played chillingly obnoxious by Jacob Allen Welby, is an oddly manic experience. Leah does everything he asks of her, even when it hurts her and it is never enough. Making matters worse, a role play sex scene is underscored by In The Hall Of The Mountain King. This night ends disastrously for Leah and is everything you need to know about both Leah and Daniel.
Once Leah flees from Daniel, she finds herself unwitting prey to creepy Mary Mae, a surprisingly creepy Sarah Serio, and her cult leader/new age chemist Davey Stone(Vladimir Noel). The cardboard cut out of every malevolent cult leader ever is more palatable by Noel’s committed and bizarrely deadpan delivery. He makes the most of the two-dimensional character. Davey claims to be able to help her unlock powers in her mind and the obligatory promise of filling holes in her life.
In the at times to symbolism heavy At Night Comes Wolves, voices whisper in our characters heads, wolves howl, and strange plants are synthesized to make God knows what. If that isn’t enough, there are also merging plot beats with another couple and missing people that are never explained or even loosely tied together. A lot is going on in the subtext that simmers just below the surface.
Through disjointed and often confusing flashbacks, we learn Daniel and Davey are part of the same doomsday cult, and Leah managed to find herself right in the middle of a power struggle. Her escape was nothing more than running from one abuser to another. Making matters worse is a fully developed story between a man and a woman that does not tie to the story at all until the final moments when the other foot awkwardly drops.
The film flounders a bit in the middle, hampered by too many diversions. Disjointed side plots and timelines make what should have been an emotional gut-punch a frustrating repeated slap. Horror movies with killer cults are a particular love of mine. While At Night Comes Wolves doesn’t do anything new with the subgenre, the unexpected ending does save it from some of its less successful components.
One major complaint would be the treatment of Leah. She is presented as the protagonist, but while she left Daniel an overt pig, she stumbled into Davey, who is just as bad, if not worse. All of the feminist rhetoric gets overshadowed by the fact that, yet again, she has given her voice and control to a man. Maybe that’s the point. Control shouldn’t be given away, and one should understand their worth, or all of humankind is doomed.
All of the components of an interesting story were there in At Night Comes Wolves, although the final act is unexpected and even fun in a campy “what did I just watch” kind of way. There are way too many ingredients and not enough finesse. Still, the surreal film is proof that TJ Marine has a unique vision and unwavering eye that will make the kinds of movies that won’t be boring. In the end, you can’t ask much more from a movie experience. At Night Comes Wolves is streaming everywhere right now.
As the TV/Streaming Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre tv. I grew up with old school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. When I’m not watching and writing about my favorite movies and series, I’m introducing my family to the wonderful world of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. My only regret, there is not enough time in the day to watch everything.