It Comes at Night
by George Wolf
Two years ago, Krisha served as a stunning feature debut for writer/director Trey Edward Shults. Gripping in the intimate nature of its truths, it heralded Shults as a new filmmaker with tremendous potential.
That potential is realized with It Comes at Night.
He may have bigger stars and a larger budget this time out, but Shults shows storytelling instincts that are already well-seasoned. Resisting any pressures to mainstream his scope and “go bigger,” Shults get even more intimate. While Krisha showed a very tangible threat infecting a family, It Comes at Night is more abstract, an intensely personal take on fear and paranoia.
Deep in the woods, Paul (Joel Edgerton, solid as always), Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and their teenage son Travis (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.) have established a cautious existence in the face of a worldwide plague. They have boarded their windows, secured their doors, and enacted a very strict set of rules for survival.
At the top of that list: do not go out at night.
This rigid domestic order is tested when the desperate Will (Christopher Abbott) breaks in. He has a wife, Kim (Riley Keough) and toddler to protect, and is offering all they have in exchange for refuge.
It Comes at Night has been on horror fans’ radar for some time, but it will test the patience of those satisfied with cheap jump scares or spoon-fed explanations. As with Krisha, Shults builds the film around his own experiences, using Travis to often mirror how Shults himself dealt with a death in the family. Through Travis’s nightmares, we are kept off balance, questioning just what is real and who can be trusted.
Shults explores the confines of the house with a fluid camera and lush cinematography, slyly creating an effective sense of separation between the occupants and the dangers outside.
But what are those dangers, and how much of the soul might one offer up to placate fear itself?
In asking those unsettling questions, It Comes at Night becomes a truly chilling exploration of human frailty.