Tropic Sprockets / It Comes at Night

By Ian Brockway

Trey Edward Shults (Krisha) directs the very tense and striking horror film “It Comes at Night.” The film is gripping from the first moment. It refreshingly relies on mood and environment rather than the shock of gore. It is a kind of “body-horror” film in the manner of early Cronenberg and it greatly succeeds in its spare imagery  when so many “zombie” movies fail with their excesses of rotten flesh or festering boils.

At the start, we are in the woods in a rustic house and all is verdant and green. Vegetation is everywhere. This would be an ideal location, were it not for the grim and unforgiving reality that there is a flesh-eating virus attacking nearly everyone for miles around.

Paul (Joel Edgerton) lives with his son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) and his wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo). Paul has just shot and buried Travis’s grandfather, since he was infected by the virus. To insure safety, corpses have to be set on fire and this is done without fanfare or sentiment.

The three of them cannot venture outside at night and live in a self sufficient house. Water is filtered and sewage is contained. Food is rationed. 

Nights are the most difficult. Travis has nightmares of ashen monsters. His dreams are accompanied by subtle but quite scary humming sounds, either by synthesizer or cello with a huge, battered locked red door in the distance. Travis dares not open it, in fear of finding inescapable disease and darkness beyond.

One night there is a knock. Guns are at the ready. A survivor, Will (Christopher Abbott) begs for his life. He thought the house had been abandoned. After tying him to a tree, Paul reluctantly trusts Will, thinking that a housemate would increase the chances for survival. 

Paul has a violent encounter on the road and Will proves himself. 

Then the stranger brings his wife Kim (Riley Keough) and their toddler Andrew (Griffin Robert Faukner). What follows is a study in trust. How much can Paul rely on the new couple and are the three healthy? 

Kim seems to have her amorous eye on Travis, but yet it could all be a whisper of some wish fulfillment in the young teenager’s mind. Or a waking dream.

The film utilizes deep close-ups and long dim hallways to great effect, making us terrified of saturated black doorways with nothing within them, as much as the sight of a gasping and gray person.

Go ahead and stare deeply into the Northern woods as depicted in “It Comes at Night”. Even if at first you don’t see anything, you will never be more uneasy. 

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