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Arts and Entertainment Tuesday, Jun. 13, 2017 5 years ago

Film review: 'It Comes at Night'

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Imaginations run wild in 'It Comes At Night.'

"It Comes At Night" encourages letting your imagination run wild. But it also requires paying strict attention to little details. And, most importantly, be prepared to be scared.

In the opening sequence, a sick elderly man is being transferred in a wheelbarrow to an open grave, still alive. His head is covered before being shot and incinerated. The two individuals who carried out the deed return to their nearby home, a boarded up fortress in the deep woods. Once inside, they reunite with the daughter of the burning corpse as we realize that these perpetrators are her husband and son.

 

Civilization has been attacked by a deadly and highly contagious plague that hits hard and fast. Victims must be destroyed immediately before infecting others. The father, Paul (Joel Edgerton), is determined to defend his wife, Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and son, Travis (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.), at any cost against intruders. When one arrives in the middle of the night and tries to break in, their family dynamic is drastically altered.

After assaulting the stranger, named Will (Christopher Abbott), Paul discovers that he, too, has a wife (Riley Keough) and young son (Griffin Robert Faulkner) who need help. When the new family agrees with the strict terms set forth by Paul, they are allowed to stay. All seems to be going smoothly until a strange incident occurs one night involving Travis, his dog and the young son. Suddenly, all hell breaks loose. Pay attention.

Director-writer Trey Edward Shults has concocted a horrifying thriller without employing cheap tricks, special effects or computer generated imagery. Instead, he creates a dark environment and drops subtle hints so that his audience is in charge of the level of fear. Not to say there aren't bumps in the night provided when least expected.

 

The cast plays well off one another. They all manage to mesh mistrust and civility, living as a two-family unit, with fluent credibility. Edgerton is especially good as the patriarch who risks everything in a gesture of kindness that may interfere with his beloved family's survival — while remaining vigorously vigilant.

Spoiler alert:

Shults suggests that remaining alive at all costs may make it not worth living in "It Comes At Night." In the closing scene, Paul sits across the dining room table from Sarah with an empty chair between them. A lengthly, wordless stare is exchanged. As the camera slowly pulls back from the close-up, is that a lesion we see on Sarah's face?

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