Cinematic Releases: It Comes At Night (2017) - Reviewed

Trey Edward Shults took the indie circuit by storm last year with his familial thriller Krisha. Using a minimalist approach and uncanny directorial presence, his quasi-horror story about the devastation of alcoholism showed audiences and critics that Shults was an up and coming creative mastermind. His sophomore film, It Comes at Night, is not only an outstanding piece of claustrophobic horror, it is a harrowing allegory in which themes of adolescence, the deceptive power of parental control, and the inevitable dangers of adulthood are quietly, irrevocably obliterated.

Paul, desperate to protect his family from a post-apocalyptic scenario turns their rustic cabin in a fortress. The arrival of another family upends the tranquility, unleashing a torrent of distrust, sexual turbulence, and violence. It Comes at Night is a story about demons. These demons descend at the witching hour, bringing notions of uncertainty and regret. Shults' script is a manual on less is more, doling out only what is necessary and forcing the viewer to make their own conclusions based on the fears the film invokes. This is yet another brilliant foray into the horrors of reality, a devious film that mystifies with its possibilities and terrifies with its proclamations. Fans of traditional horror will be initially frustrated, but this is the power of Shults' terrible design. Once the trap is set, the viewer is tied to the participants, living out the implacable manifestations both mundane and surreal as they unfold.

Joel Edgerton and Carmen Ejogo star as the central couple, however, Kelvin Harrison Jr., who portrays their son Will is the dangerous center. Harrison's ability to communicate abject fear is remarkable, allowing the nightmares to walk within the viewer's mind rather than requiring special effects or unnecessary violence. Edgerton and Ejogo give excellent turns of well-intended savagery, however, as the narrative slowly spins into a perfectly controlled nightmare, their characters become more and more removed, archetypes of a young adult's psyche as they confront the horrors of the world that await them beyond their parent's measured realm of experience and protection. Riley Keough and Christopher Abbott round out the cast as the unexpected guests and their subtle approach, especially in their one on one interactions with other characters is the foundation that is essential for the final act's resonance. It would be easy to put this splendid cast through endless waves of infected monsters and complex shootouts with wasteland murderers, but Shults' battleground is in the soul of a child where parents desperately fight for purchase even when their offspring ventures beyond the nest. 

Drew Daniels' cinematography is stripped down to the essentials, refreshingly devoid of shots that would overpower the narrative, something that a film like this begs for and the film is strengthened as a result. The expected trappings of a survivalist's enclave become the stewards of captivity, perfectly encapsulated by an ominous red door Rubicon that is indicative of the paranoia infused atmosphere. Maturity is the danger, both in the eye of the father and the hungry subconscious of the teen discovering their sexuality. Brian McOmber's score is the final accoutrement, a skin crawling dirge that appears from the shadows of each characters' darkest impulses and then recedes in the presence of artificial illumination, yet another sly critique of best laid plans. 

In theaters, It Comes at Night is a triumph, both as an unconventional horror film and as a startling examination of the concept of tribes and their importance as one comes to understand the gravity of adulthood. Protecting your tribe from the world, be it eschewing social media or forbidding a child to date are challenges that will continue to evolve, that parents will continue to grapple with, and most importantly, that children will continue to circumvent; is the heart of Shults' cinematic reckoning for a world steeped in suspicion and divided ideologies. If you're looking for something truly unique, an experience will haunt you not with blood, but with introspection, It Comes at Night will defy your expectations.

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-Kyle Jonathan