It Comes at Night
- Nikki Baughan
- 3 July 2017
Striking, devastatingly relatable second feature from Trey Edward Shults, with Joel Edgerton
Following his lauded 2015 debut Krisha (released in the UK at the end of last year), American director Trey Edward Shults' sophomore feature is a masterclass in dramatic tension, its impact coming not from a box of genre tricks but an intelligent story expertly handled by filmmaker and cast. While Shults' narrative is concerned with the end of civilisation as we know it, his focus is not the terrible event itself – some kind of highly contagious virus – but the responses of ordinary folk.
The action is confined to an isolated woodland home, where Paul (Joel Edgerton), his wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and teenage son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr) live according to a set of strict rules that keep them safe and give them a sense of comforting stability. When stranger Will (Christopher Abbott) encroaches on his land, Paul is convinced to give shelter to his young family but, as supplies grow scarce and tensions rise, loyalties are tested to the limit.
Filtering the apocalypse through such an intimate lens makes this cataclysmic scenario devastatingly relatable. While there are some chilling moments – the family dog barking into the dark woods, the dead-of-night scratching at the bolted door – the real horror comes from events unfolding inside the walls. It's not about finding answers or saving the world, the only thing that matters here is self-preservation. Only Travis seems to be having trouble adapting to the new world order; his reactions act as moral ballast which intensifies the fear and paranoia casting shadows across the rest of the household.
There's no doubt that It Comes at Night takes on a certain resonance in this age of the marauding alt-right, yet it's not a political statement. Instead, it's a deeply personal exploration of the extremes of human behaviour, with a lean, real-world sensibility that makes it easy to empathise with the notion of survival at any cost. And, as its gut-punch climax shows, the eroding of our humanity may be the most nightmarish scenario of all.
General release from Fri 7 Jul.