The Films of Trey Edward Shults
It Comes at Night (June 22/17)
A progressively engrossing horror effort, It Comes at Night, which transpires in the aftermath of an unknown (and very contagious) plague, follows family-unit Paul (Joel Edgerton), Sarah (Carmen Ejogo), and Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) as their regimented existence is interrupted by the arrival of a stranger named Will (Christopher Abbott) and his wife (Riley Keough’s Kim) and young son (Griffin Robert Faulkner’s Andrew) – with the movie detailing the tension that inevitably ensues between the two clans. Filmmaker Trey Edward Shults is clearly not looking to deliver a typical, by-the-numbers post-apocalyptic tale here, and although It Comes at Night eventually becomes a seriously captivating and spellbinding piece of work, the movie admittedly possesses an overly oblique opening stretch that does, at the outset, prevent the viewer from completely embracing the grizzled characters and spare storyline. (It doesn’t help, certainly, that much of the dialogue, especially in the film’s early goings, is whispered and thus rendered unintelligible.) There’s little doubt, however, that things improve substantially once Abbott’s character (and his wife and child, eventually) arrive on the scene, with an impressively tense interrogation between Paul and Will paving the way for a midsection rife with electrifying, tense interludes. (This is despite Shults’ periodic reliance on horror-movie clichés and tropes, including a family dog that couldn’t possibly be more doomed.) It’s more than apparent, too, that Shults does a fantastic job of ensuring that the pervasively ominous atmosphere builds and builds, which effectively (and ultimately) leads to a final stretch that’s almost impossibly suspenseful and mesmerizing. And while the movie’s various jolts and overtly frightening moments are, in retrospect, a bit of a cheat, It Comes at Night is nevertheless a palpably gripping endeavor that stands as one of the best movies of its type that harkens the arrival of a thoroughly promising up-and-coming filmmaker.