Review: IT COMES AT NIGHT (2017) 'Houston filmmaker Trey Edward Shults creates paranoia in tense thriller'


Joseph Friar

By Joseph Friar
June 19, 2017 at 5:40 p.m.


Joel Edgerton, Carmen Ejogo, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Christopher Abbott, Riley Keough

Directed by Trey Edward Shults 

What transpires on screen in Houston writer-director Trey Edward Shults’ follow up to 2016’s psychological drama “Krisha” is nothing short of a nightmare.  A family led by Joel Edgerton find themselves barricaded in a cabin in the woods for reasons unknown.  There are clues that something apocalyptic may have happened to the outside world and when another family shows up seeking shelter tensions quickly begin to rise.  Think of the film as less Frank Darabont and more Stanley Kubrick as Shults focuses on what’s happening inside the cabin not on the outside world. 

At one time Paul (Joel Edgerton) was a history teacher but none of that matters now.  His focus is not on the past but on the present and his responsibility to protect wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo), teenage son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), and the family’s dog Stanley from the outside world.  There is no backstory so we are not sure what has happened but there are clues like Sarah’s father (David Pendleton) developing lesions and becoming sick, an arsenal of weapons and gas masks, and the severe precautions taken to avoid infection.   

There are also strict rules that the family abides including never go out at night and keep the red front door locked and secured always.  One night they are awakened by the sounds of someone trying to break in and after a brief struggle a stranger named Will (Christopher Abbott) is subdued and interrogated.  After Paul concludes that Will is not infected and that he was only scouring for food and water, he invites Will, his wife, Kim (Riley Keough) and their young son Andrew (Griffin Robert Faulkner) to move into the cabin.   

Soon Travis begins having nightmares and tensions begin to rise inside the home and then Shults opens the paranoia flood gates with a serious of events meant to captivate the audience.  The film heads into a climax that is more frightening than any zombie or monster lurking in the woods yet I feel the audience may not fully grasp the impact of those final moments, especially if they are anticipating the emergence of a clear-cut explanation of what led to the series of events.  In that case they may feel like the film is related to M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village (which I liked) when in fact the horror is closer to the kind experienced in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining

Edgerton and the cast deliver solid performances and while I was left with unanswered questions there’s no denying that “It Comes at Night” is a tense thriller that is heightened by the lack of it’s revelations. 

(3 stars)  



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