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The Inhuman Condition: ‘It Comes at Night’ brings psychological horror to the art house

Carmen Ejogo and Kelvin Harrison Jr.

It Comes at Night
4 out of 5 Stars
Director:
Trey Edward Shults
Writers: Trey Edward Shults
Starring: Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo
Genre: Horror
Rated: R for violence, disturbing images, and language

Synopsis: A strange and fatal disease has made its way across the countryside. Paul (Joel Edgerton), his wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) have locked themselves in a remote home. Suspicious of anyone and everyone who crosses their path, the family must decide who to trust and who should be viewed as a threat.

Review: I’ve never found films like “Nightmare on Elm Street” or “Friday the 13th” to be all that frightening. They were interesting, horrific in their own ways, but not the stuff that my nightmares are made of. They were fantasy. A dark fantasy, but no more real than the Wookiees on Kashyyyk or the robotic inhabitants of Cybertron.

Psychological horror, however, was something entirely different. George A. Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” was terrifying not because of the zombies, but because of the way the uninfected reacted to the epidemic. The same could be said of “28 Days Later,” Peter Brook’s “Lord of the Flies,” “Z for Zachariah,” “The Road” and now “It Comes at Night.”

With “It Comes at Night” director/writer Trey Edward Shults has created a claustrophobic world where danger is ever present. It finds a family who have created a sense of normalcy in a world recovering from chaos. Their routine is disrupted when a man mistakenly assumes their home is abandoned and sends them on a course rife with paranoia, denial and resignation.

Should they trust the man and allow his family to move in with them, or use caution and take measures to ensure that he is unable to lead anyone back to them.

At the core of the film is Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), a teenager faced with a dim future and horrific dreams. His constant companion is a dog, but the introduction of a woman, the wife of the intruder, into his world ignites his hormones. His sleepless nights were once spent wandering the home, but now the woman, despite being married and the mother of a young child, adds an additional restless element that finds Travis spying on his new obsession from above through a crack between the floorboards.

Tension builds between the two families as a darkness, from within or without, falls around them.

“It Comes at Night” has its visceral moments, but the real scares are on a psychological level as the film challenges the audience to consider how they would want to act and how they would act if put in a similar position.

Great performances and compactness to the narrative make “It Comes at Night” a jewel for those who are looking for a film that gets under the skin and into the consciousness of its audience. There are things far more terrifying that what goes bump in the night.

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