It Comes At Night

It Comes At Night

(2017)

Southern horror from the acclaimed writer-director of Krisha, following a father who must protect his family from an civilisation-ending contagion and human survivors.... More

Secure within a desolate home as an unspecified plague ravages the world, a man has established a tenuous domestic order with his wife and son, but this will soon be put to test when a desperate young family arrives seeking refuge.Hide

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Of all genres, the dystopian horror film has the greatest potential to disappoint or disturb. Supernatural or science fiction demons might be temporarily unnerving but films about unseen terror can reach deep into our psyche. The film It Comes at Night (2017) is an example of how less is often more in cinema: a low-budget film that avoids the usual digital spooks to focus on primal fear and survival.

The storyline and setting are minimalist. Without any narrative clues, we abruptly join a... More panicked family in an isolated forest cabin about to dispose of a family member who has broken out in some form of disfiguring sickness. We hear heavy breathing behind masks and follow a still conscious body being dragged through claustrophobic cabin rooms and narrow hallway then outside to a shallow grave. It takes several scenes to piece together what just happened, and all the time the danger remains unseen. This terror atmosphere is maintained throughout the story as we watch a family fighting to survive a futuristic biological catastrophe. The father Paul (Joel Edgerton) has boarded-up and sealed the cabin and everyone must follow strict rules about exposure to the outside. He does whatever it takes to protect his wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and rebellious 17-year old son Travis (Kevin Harrison Jnr.) from the contagion. When an intruder breaks in he is dealt with harshly until Paul takes pity and allows him to bring his wife and child to share the cabin. The new family brings deadly risk and eventually chaos.

Rarely do we find a horror film so focused on the nature of fear itself. The “It” of the film’s title lies more within the human psyche than outside. It’s a whirlpool of night shadows, Travis’ coming-of-age nightmares, and the imagined and real danger of contact with anyone outside of the family. The untethered camerawork accentuates the claustrophobic isolation, interspersed with close-ups shots of wide-eyed fear that is palpable. We only know what the camera lets us see and the narrative withholds explanation or backstory, leaving viewers to their imagination. The acting performances of Joel Edgerton and Kevin Harrison are uniformly excellent and allow events to unfold from completely different points of view.

If you are a horror fan expecting blood and gore you will not find it here. Some will still be waiting for the big reveal until the credits and not realise that this is about atmospherics and unseen inner demons. This film works both as a narrative about responding to a dystopian threat and as a psychological study of human potential for destruction. When Paul takes primal laws of survival into his own hands it challenges the viewer to walk in his shoes with a loaded gun and ask “what would I do?” So many horror films fall limp at the finishing line but the final scene of this one will send shivers down your spine.Hide


The Press Reviews

  • Edgerton gives another masterly minimalist performance, and Ejogo and Harrison are preternaturally alert. Full Review

  • Mr. Shults doesn't jolt the audience with false scares or showy plot twists. He builds up the dread with ruthless efficiency and minimal gimmickry, relying on and refreshing some of the oldest techniques in the book. Full Review

  • As he did in "Krisha," Shults avoids the conventional trap of exposition, relying instead on his striking command of the medium to evoke the inner life of a family under extraordinarily bleak circumstances. Full Review

  • Trey Edward Shults's nerve-shredding domestic thriller joins the rarified company of Cormac McCarthy's 2006 novel The Road and the handful of intimate post-apocalyptic scenarios that puncture through to our deepest fears. Full Review

  • The film confirms that Shults, working again with DP Drew Daniels, has a sure and fluent grasp of cinematic storytelling, his stripped-down narrative pulsing with dread and emotion. Full Review

  • The movie is a close-quarters psychological thriller built artfully and honestly, from the ground up, with more of a nod to early John Carpenter than mid-period Danny Boyle. Full Review

  • This modest science-fiction thriller brings the hands-on vigour of independent filmmaking to a high-concept premise, but the results are insubstantial and impersonal. Full Review

  • A slow-burn family drama with thriller moments and a tone more in keeping with apocalyptic feel-bad flick, The Road. Full Review

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