It Comes at Night
4/5 MUST must see SEE
dir-scr Trey Edward Shults
prd David Kaplan, Andrea Roa
with Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo, Riley Keough, Kelvin Harrison Jr, Griffin Robert Faulkner, David Pendleton, Chase Joliet, Mick O'Rourke
release US 9.Jun.17, UK 7.Jul.17
17/US A24 1h31
It Comes at Night
Something's out there: Edgerton and Harrison

ejogo abbott keough
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
It Comes at Night A fiendishly clever spin on the horror genre, this film challenges our preconceptions without us even realising what it's doing. Not only are the characters remarkably complex, but the premise is loaded with provocative subtext that taps into the zeitgeist, using a contained story to explore the ways paranoia can undermine society. It's also expertly shot, edited and performed by a bold cast.

In an isolated woodland farmhouse, Paul (Edgerton) is desperate to protect his wife Sarah (Ejogo) and 17-year-old son Travis (Harrison) from the fallout of a devastating disease that has brought civilisation to its knees. Shortly after they bury Sarah's father (Pendleton), a stranger, Will (Abbott), tries to break into the house, saying he's in need of supplies for his wife Kim (Keough) and young son Andrew (Faulkner). So Paul and Sarah invite them to move into the house with them, for safety. But suspicions creep in, as compassion comes up against fear.

The story is told through Travis' eyes, as he sleeplessly wanders around the pitch-black house at night after his horrifically creepy nightmares. This perspective pulls the audience right into the premise, letting us explore each twist and mystery along with this open-handed young man. Harrison plays him with a wrenching sensitivity that makes what he sees, and what he dreams, deeply moving. Schults further draws us in with offhanded moments of comedy and intimacy, both of which make the nasty things that happen that much more unnerving.

Edgerton anchors the movie with a complex performance as a man whose growing paranoia is destabilising his ability to protect his family. He has no idea what's happening beyond the shadowy woods, so everything seems to be a threat. This means that he shifts from hero to villain and back in the blink of an eye. His interaction with Abbott is superbly played, packed with suggestion and little telling touches. And both Ejogo and Keough have edgy moments of their own along the way, although they remain relatively on the sidelines.

As the story progresses and expands, the film develops strong thematic undercurrents, most notably for the immigration debate. Instead of preaching, Shults is thoughtfully exploring what makes people adopt fear as a primary emotion, and how that impacts their behaviour even to the people they love. This lends the film some real weight without ever diminishing its strength as an entertaining, claustrophobic freak-out. So even as he gleefully shakes us up, Shults leaves us with something important to think about.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 5.Jul.17

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© 2017 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall