Trey Edward Shults’ second feature is one that comes from a place of deep anguish. As the director himself has previously pointed out, the film was made following the death of a relative, and the first thing we see in It Comes at Night is the burial of a family member. Except, this film is set in a world ravaged by an unknown, highly contagious virus – so these opening moments also feature euthanasia via pistol.
Mostly told from the perspective of Travis, the youngest member of this family at the end of the world, plenty of horrible things happen throughout the film’s sparse narrative, often without any answer as to how and why. As another family comes into play after a man breaks into the house, the film slowly ekes out a tragic narrative that wouldn’t feel out of place in the Old Testament. Misunderstandings breed paranoia and mistrust, and eventually violence. The house is extremely claustrophobic, Shults often using a single light source as Travis wanders at night.
Shults uses the post-apocalyptic context and single setting to facilitate this air of extreme paranoia, very effectively opting for tension over straight scares – the more traditional scares come in Travis’ nightmares. The new family is only seen enough to breed distrust in the characters and the audience, as previous stories don’t line up and character motivations are left almost entirely in the dark. We never get to see outside the family’s house in the woods, but it doesn’t matter – the audience soon learns to fear everything in that home (especially that red door).
It Comes at Night is a powerful, slow-burning horror, a distressing and nihilistic examination of human nature that lingers in the mind long after the shocking denouement.
CAST: Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo, Riley Keough
DIRECTOR: Trey Edward Shults
WRITER: Trey Edward Shults
SYNOPSIS: Secure within a desolate home as an unnatural threat terrorizes the world, a man has established a tenuous domestic order with his wife and son, but this will soon be put to the test when a desperate young family arrives seeking refuge.