Director: Trey Edward Shultz
Starring: Joel Edgerton, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Christopher Abbott, Riley Keough, Carmen Ejogo, Griffin Robert Faulkner
Words: Nathan Scatcherd
Judging by the trailers, one could be forgiven for feeling like they’d seen It Comes at Night before.
A mysterious, highly contagious virus has taken hold of the world. A family (Edgerton, Ejogo and Harrison Jr.) have holed themselves up in an old country house, relying only on each other, understandably mistrustful of strangers. ‘Contagion panic’ movies; zombie movies (these two are often the same, granted); video games like The Last of Us; it seems like the viral apocalypse surrounds us, with various degrees of flash and spectacle, blood and guts.
But It Comes at Night is not the film it perhaps appears to be in its marketing. There are no shuffling brain-eaters here, and no obviously telegraphed jump scares. It is perfectly paced, and at points almost unbearably intense; the kind of exercise in building tension and an atmosphere of thick, choking dread that is, with any justice, sure to become one of the staple ‘how to’ examples shown in film school horror modules. And make no mistake, this is a horror movie. Detractors of more slow-burning modern chillers such as It Follows and The Witch will likely find similar problems with this film, but for those of us who know better, It Comes at Night is a bleak, deliberate, deeply affecting example of horror at its most insidious and unnerving.
Once our aforementioned family come into contact with another seeking refuge (Abbott, Keough and Faulkner), the self-sufficient life they have made for themselves comes under strain, as the film focuses not on the virus or the circumstances surrounding it, but on the thin, jagged line between mistrust and friendship; the human bonds of compassion, and family, and how sometimes these things can drive a person with good intentions to nonetheless do terrible things.
To say much about the story would be to ruin it. I will confess however that, once the film had ended, I realised I’d been digging my nails into my arm from the sheer tension.
It Comes at Night… and stays with you long after.