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‘It Comes at Night’ (review)

Produced by David Kaplan, Andrea Roa
Written and Directed by Trey Edward Shults
Starring Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott,
Carmen Ejogo, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Riley Keough

 

Once again, A24 Films hits the mark! Their latest release, It Comes at Night adds to their canon of films that take the expected and turn it on its head. It Comes at Night is a great horror film with more in common with a good, old-fashioned Alfred Hitchcock film than it does with horror films currently coming out of Hollywood.

Set post an unexplained pandemic, a husband and wife struggle to keep their teenage son safe and live off the grid, isolated from society. Their way of life is challenged when they come into contact with a man trying to find refuge for his young family. Each person’s humanity is tested as suspicion of each other increases, and the ever present threat of the outside world presses against them.

It Comes at Night is one of the best horror film I have seen in a long time. It doesn’t rely on jump scares or gratuitous gore to scare its audience. It takes it’s time. It is a methodical piece of storytelling that builds uneasy slowly. The story gives you enough information to be intrigued, but doesn’t spell out every detail, leaving the viewer’s imagination to run amok. Writer/Director Trey Edward Shults (Krisha) understands the power of a letting a viewer’s mind fill in the details. They will always fill it with what scares them most.

Joel Edgerton does a masterful job of playing Paul, the father forced into the Alpha male role. He balances the heartfelt sorrow of wanting to be a loving husband and father with being the cold-blooded survivalist. He always makes the tough decision, but you can see the inward battle. Kevin Harrison Jr. as Travis, Paul’s son, is the heart of the film. Through him you see a child who was raised to care about the people not just in his family, but in his community. Travis is the “good kid” that we as a society hope our children will grow up to be. It’s these qualities that put Travis in danger in this post-apocalyptic world.

The supporting cast fills out the world and makes the struggle for survival tangible. You are never quite sure if the young man Will (Christopher Abbott) is on the level. The push and pull of wanting or not wanting to believe him contributes to the suspense of the film.

The dialog is lean. It enhances the feeling that there is truly nothing left of our urban existence. There is no tv, radio, or internet. There is no ideal chatter about inconsequential things. There is very little talk about the world before “the event” because no one want to be reminded of the world as it was, people that have been lost, luxuries that they had. All dialog is about survival, gathering information to make choices.

For horror fans who judge a film by its gore level, It Comes at Night is not a gore fest. The gore is few and far between, but when seen used to great effect.

The true horror of the film is the people. It’s what each of us are willing to do to survive or to protect our loved ones, and how these choices change us.

 

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