It Comes at Night is a master class in dread, but with more mood than meaning
Trust me, Trey Edward Shults is a name you’re going to want to remember. Still in his 20s, the Houston-born writer-director served up a ferociously tense debut in 2016 with the low-budget psychological thriller Krisha. It was the kind of creepy, white-knuckle workout that manages to wring a lot out of a little. Now, with his follow-up, It Comes at Night, Shults has conjured another master class in anxiety, claustrophobia, and dread. He’s a natural-born filmmaker.
Set in the aftermath of some unexplained plague, the movie closes in tight on a family of survivors barricaded in a cabin deep in the woods. Joel Edgerton plays the bearded, paranoid father, Selma’s Carmen Ejogo is the resilient, resourceful mother, and The Birth of a Nation’s Kelvin Harrison Jr. is their 17-year-old son. Together they try to keep out what’s left of the infected world beyond their doors. Of course, that’s easier said than done, as someone shows up in the middle of the night determined to get in.
Who is he? Can he be trusted? Is he sick? If this all sounds familiar, that’s because It Comes at Night is essentially a zombie movie minus the zombies. But Shults is more interested in the nightmares of the living than the horrors of the living dead. Unfortunately, his goal is more focused on building mood than delivering meaning. I kept wanting Shults’ film to add up to a little more in the end. Still, his chops behind the camera are undeniable. I can’t wait to see what he does next.