Review: ‘It Comes at Night’ leaves everything to the imagination

Director: Trey Edward Shults

Starring: Joel Edgerton, Kelvin Harrison Jr, Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo, Riley Keough

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 test when a desperate young family arrives seeking refuge (IMDb).    

Rating: R

Year: 2017

Writer-Director Trey Edward Shults is a true filmmaker. He knows how to effectively manipulate the technical aspects of the art form in such a way that compels viewers deep inside the minds and lives of his conflicted characters. The young artist proved so with his debut feature Krisha, which was one of the most engrossing dramas of last year.

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Shults now gives us his take on the popular post-apocalyptic subgenre, employing much the same approach. His latest film is slow burning moral tale that’s more interested in exploring the small scale, psychological toll of a deadly virus outbreak and less so the mass repercussions of one.

It Comes at Night takes place deep within the wilderness where Paul (Joel Edgerton) and his small family live an isolated life inside a boarded up home. Their intrinsic existence goes mostly uninterrupted until Will (Christopher Abbott) and his desperate family stumble upon them in search of sanctuary. The encounter leaves both families questioning each other’s intentions as well as their own judgment.

Shults takes unsettling advantage of the mounting paranoia. Slow, lingering shots stack the anticipation while faint, undiscerning sounds coupled with the unrelenting blackness of night keep you questioning what’s really going on just off screen. At times It Comes at Night plays more like a haunted house flick than anything else, but it’s Shults’s way of helping moviegoers access the inner turmoil of his characters. He is keenly aware that it’s our imaginations, not witches or bored teenagers, that conjure the most frightening scenarios.

 

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The strength of the film’s tone is matched by its equally impressive performances. Joel Edgerton is an expressive actor capable of conveying a multitude of complex feelings in a single expression. As Paul he’s simultaneously courageous and fearful, angry and heartbroken. It’s an intricate performance that seems rather simplistic because of how believable it is. Kelvin Harrison Jr. also deserves praise for his convincing portrayal of Travis, Paul’s teenage son, who acutely conveys the inner struggle of an innocent youth coming to grips with the harsh realities of his new nightmare.

Despite the film’s technical achievements and resonate performances, It Comes at Night would have benefited from further developing a couple ideas that it plants earlier on. As it stands, the film is so strong overall that nothing is lost by not following through on some of those thoughts. It’s just unfortunate that Shults didn’t see them through as they could have added to the characters’ psychoses.

It Comes at Night is another enthralling effort from Trey Edward Shults.

Grade: A-

What did you all think of It Comes at Night? Did you dig the psychological thriller aspect? Or would you have preferred a more straight forward horror film? Let us know in the comments below!

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