Writer, director and co-editor Trey Edward Shults’ It Comes At Night is an uncomfortably intimate apocalyptic drama and only his second feature film.
While small in scale it’s certainly powerful, with a harsh and despairing edge which contrasts favourably with more action-packed potential-end-of-the-world movies from Outbreak to 28 Days Later. Like two other horror pics that have proven unusually successful and mainstream this year, the US hit Get Out and the French Raw, it’s a pared-down piece with a minimum of characters and really only one location. Despite arguable credibility gaps, much of it proves as creepy as hell.
A mysterious virus has ravaged the world outside and we meet a family holed up in an isolated country house, and you can immediately see why Shults has cited Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, John Carpenter’s remake of The Thing, George Romero’s original Night Of The Living Dead and Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now as major influences. Paul (Joel Edgerton), his wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo, also in Alien: Covenant) and their teen son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) are shown dealing with Sarah’s Dad Bud (David Pendleton), who has contracted the disease, and the process of getting close to the infected (rubber gloves, gasmasks, extreme cleaning) is demonstrated along with the sheer mercilessness of it all.
Travis is haunted by disturbing dreams that cleverly play with the aspect ratio of the film itself, and then a stranger, Will (Christopher Abbott), breaks into the house (which might or might not explain this one’s title), leading to his near-execution. He’s spared, however, and a plan is hatched to bring his family to the house (safety in numbers), which results in the only sequence filmed beyond the property and the introduction of Kim (Riley Keough) and scared little Andrew (Griffin Robert Faulkner).
And that’s really all that can be said about Shults’ film, another in a long line of epics that prove hard to discuss without giving it all away and prompting furious shrieks of “SPOILERS!” What can be pointed out, however, is that this filmmaker’s cast is very fine, with the familiar Edgerton and Ejogo matched by the lesser-known Harrison, whose Travis offers a complex mixture of naïvete, fear, compassion and a vivid imagination (and surely Shults identifies with him the most?). The low-key, even uncannily quiet mood is also seriously unsettling, and makes sure that this lingers long after the final curtain and, just perhaps, sneaks into your mind late at night.
Rated MA. It Comes At Night is in cinemas now