It’s horror weekend at the cineplex. While mainstream audiences will inevitably flock to the crude reboot of The Mummy, there is a far-superior alternative for the discerning viewer. It Comes At Night is a robust entry in horror that packs a gripping thrill ride from beginning to end.
Following Split and Get Out, 2017 boasts another excellent horror offering, this time from Trey Edward Shults. The writer/director delivers an impressive sophomore effort after the critically-lauded drama Krisha with a tightly-restrained horror-thriller that relies more on claustrophobic atmosphere and paranoia than tricks to elicit scares.
It Comes At Night introduces us to Paul (Warrior’s Joel Edgerton), a no-nonsense father protecting his wife and son as they struggle to survive in isolation in an abandoned cottage deep in an unspecified woods. A nasty disease is running rampant, most likely crippling humanity, and the family is living in seclusion to endure the epidemic.
Via a brutal opening scene, Paul’s infected father is shot, burned, and buried as we gradually recognize the critical situation they’re in. It Comes At Night bypasses most zombie/disease-territory clichés by dropping us in the middle of the action, choosing not to waste time on conventional setup horror fans are accustomed to.
During a night of restless sleep for the family, a burglar named Will (Girls’ Christopher Abbott) breaks in the front door, and Paul takes no chances as he figures out who he is and where he comes from. Claiming he thought the homestead was abandoned, Will alleges he was looking for supplies and water for his wife and son, who he says are in another house 50 miles away. With extreme caution, Paul later agrees to let the new family in to better defend the well-equipped stronghold, and to maybe find some new friends.
Much of the suspense is derived in the suspicion of whether Will is who he says he is, whether his family is infected, and whether anyone will discover Paul’s home. Despite a lean budget and premise, Trey Edward Shults administers plenty of thrills and scares as things play out. Effective writing, adept cinematography, and terrifying nightmare imagery compound to deliver a suitably rewarding horror film.
Joel Edgerton supplements his past work with another superb performance as a character who is more gruff and intense than his previous roles. His love for his family is undeniable as he goes to extremes for their safety, often shouldering difficult decisions, many of which are challenging to justify afterward.
In part due to his past work, Christopher Abbott is not entirely convincing as having a rural background, but he effectively toes the line of earnest father and possible threat to keep the audience guessing. Young, little-known Kelvin Harrison Jr. offers some promise as Paul’s anxious and inexperienced son. Carmen Ejogo and Riley Keough round out an excellent cast as Paul and Will’s wives.
Good horror movies are hard to come by, with most relying too-heavily on the same bag of tricks year after year. In addition to the instant classic Get Out, 2017 treats us with a formidable new horror installment that isn’t wholly original, but skillfully executed and captivating nonetheless. If you’re in the mood for horror this weekend, skip the CG schlock-fest The Mummy and opt for the far-preferable It Comes At Night.