Director: Trey Edward Shults
Cast: Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo
Watch It Comes at Night online in the UK: Netflix UK / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Rakuten TV / Google Play / Sky Store
“It Comes at Night” declares the ominous title of Trey Edward Shults’ second feature film, with all the alarm and fear of an in-your-face horror movie. But that’s not what you get when you open up your doors to this fiercely unnerving creeper, which deliberately avoids anything explicit or unsubtle – at least, at first. It’s in-your-head rather than in-your-face filmmaking and all the better for it.
The “It” in the title is the key to the whole thing, in that Schults isn’t interested in it at all. What’s coming at night? It doesn’t matter. The important thing is that it is. And, now that you know it is, you’ll spend the rest of your evenings, and waking hours, waiting for it to happen. It’s that paranoid, self-preserving streak that has shaped the America of Schults’ film, which has been ravaged by some kind of disease and left the remaining human population bunkered up in homes with their shotguns pointed firmly at the door.
Paul (Joel Edgerton) is one such man, living in the woods with his wife, Sarah (Carmen Ejogo), and son, Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.). They slowly, quietly go through a cautious routine: guns in the safe, locks on the door, boards on the windows, masks for going outside, and a bucket for the toilet when they can’t reach the outdoors loo. That closeted, day-to-day routine is disrupted by the arrival of Will (Christopher Abbott), a stranger who breaks into the home. Paul and Sarah decide, in an effort to retain some humanity, to let them move in, and the movie’s vice-like grip is powered entirely by a single question: can they trust them?
Edgerton is wonderful, as ever, bringing a faintly cruel streak to his committed family protector; you get the sense that he almost enjoys the position of authority over everyone, as he explains the house rules to their new domestic guests. Harrison Jr., meanwhile, is superbly wide-eyed as his naive teenage son, torn between the excitement of having a young woman in the house and the horror of nightmarish visions that may or may not be real.
Those are the only graphic concessions Shults makes during his tautly paced thriller, which leaves us wondering what’s actually going on underneath the awkward, suspicious surface. The woods, as much a labyrinth and prison as they are a beautiful expanse of nature, soon become threatening in their own right, as we find ourselves scrutinising every twig snap and every tree branch. Is there something, or someone, there? And, once we set down that road of a reactive, withdrawn society, is there anyway back? Riveting until the last, Shults lets these unanswered mysteries worm their way under your skin with a chilling plausibility.
It Comes at Night is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.
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