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It Comes at Night

It Comes at Night: A Sophisticated, Slow-Burning Kind-of Horror

  • Carmen EjogoChristopher Abbott...
  • Horror
  • Trey Edward Shults
reviewed by
Marija Djurovic
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It Comes at Night: A Sophisticated, Slow-Burning Kind-of Horror

Playing with suspense and discomfort in more ways than one, twenty-eight-year-old American filmmaker, Trey Edward Shults – a who broke onto the scene with his riveting domestic drama Krisha back in 2015 – delivers another winner, this time, in the form of a haunting tale of survival in post-apocalyptic-psychological thriller, It Comes at Night.

Penned by the talented filmmaker himself, the film is set in the wake of a mysterious and devastating plague which has forced Paul (Edgerton), his wife Sarah (Ejohgo) and their teenage son Travis (Harrison Jr.), to seek refuge in an isolated house buried deep in the woods. In order to keep themselves safe from the infection the family wears gas masks and keeps themselves boarded up in the house for a large portion of their day. In addition, they always go out in pairs, they eat their dinners together as a family every night and they never, ever leave the house when darkness falls.

After having been forced to kill and bury Sarah’s seemingly infected father in the beginning of the movie, the family’s routine is shaken up when a stranger, Will (Abbott) breaks into their home looking for food and shelter to bring back to his wife Kim (Keough) and their three-year-old son, Andrew (Faulkner), who are currently staying at a nearby hideout. Reluctant to allow strangers into their home, Paul soon gives in and allows the family to move in, with both agreeing to share resources and stick to Paul’s well-defined rules.  However, their mundane and relatively happy co-existence is soon shattered when fear and suspicion soon pours into the cracks of their sanctuary, threatening to tear Paul and his family apart.

The first thing to point out is that It Comes at Night is not your everyday horror.  There is no gore, blood or any real monsters for the characters – or even the audience for that matter – to see and fear and the film never really goes deep into the details of what the disease may be or how it all started.  It’s all in the unseen and the unknown, which Shults brilliantly incorporates into the tension-filled minutes of the film. Taking its time to build the necessary mood – one filled with mostly desperation and anxiety– the pace is slow with cinematographer Drew Daniels delivering a beautiful array of shots and lingering vistas which complement the movie’s ultimately bleak and isolating atmosphere.

Demonstrating focus and impeccable style, Shults stays clear from any traditional horror-movie tropes and cheap jump scares and keeps things stylish and simple. However, the downfall to all of that beauty, comes a story which doesn’t really know what it wants to say in the end, with Shults struggling to bring the movie to an effective resolution.  That said, however, the film is still commanding and distinctive, regardless of its flaws, with the young director – who is still working his way up the industry ladder – showing great potential and a directing career worth keeping an eye on.

Like This? Try

The Witch (2015), The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2015), The Monster (2016)

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Shults has said that this is a particularly personal project and that he has based much of it on his own intimate experiences after the death of his father.

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