It’s full scream
With his second film about to open, self-taught director Trey Edward Shults shows himself to be a true storyteller, says Anne Marie Scanlon
TREY Edward Shults is an unusual young man for many reasons. The 28-year-old Texan is the first American I have ever met who didn’t claim some connection to Ireland. He’s never even tasted a pint of Guinness.
“I had an Irish Car Bomb [a cocktail of Guinness, Bailey’s Irish Cream, and Jameson] and it made me throw up,” he offers apologetically.
Far more amazing, is that Shults has just written and directed his second feature film, It Comes at Night — a work so accomplished and flawless it belies the director’s age and experience.
Ostensibly this is a horror film, a category I’d take issue with. There are no hordes of zombies or chainsaw brandishing serial killers, and yet the tension never eases up — I was quite literally on the edge of my seat the entire time. If you like your summer blockbuster old school, a mindless escape into the air conditioning of the cinema, then It Comes at Night is not the film for you as it prompts more questions than it ever answers.
The story centres mainly around Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr), a 17-yearold boy living in the woods with his parents.
At the very start of the film, Travis has to help his father Paul (Joel Edgerton) kill Bud, his grandfather, and immolate his remains. As Bud has succumbed to an airborne illness, Travis and Paul wear breathing masks as they go about their grim task. We never find out what the illness is, or how widespread the outbreak — only that it is fatal and that Travis has absolutely no chance of living a normal life.
He can’t go out with his friends or have a girlfriend — he is quite literally stuck with his parents. Despite the size of the house, the claustrophobia is almost overwhelming.
Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and Paul are a mixed-race couple and I ask Shults if this was deliberate. He tells me that it wasn’t in his original script — it occurred organically as he was casting the movie.
“To me, it’s not a movie about race, it’s not commenting on that at all. I am just so happy and blessed that that worked out and Kelvin is the only kid who could have played Travis. The whole cast are great, they’re such good people and so talented.”
The only time skin matters in this movie is when it’s covered with bubonic-looking boils, at which point colour is irrelevant.
Like his first feature film, Krisha, (“which we made for $30,000 at my mom’s house and stars my family”), much of It Comes at Night is semi-autobiographical. The house is modelled closely on the home of Shults’s late grandfather, Bud, to whom he was very close. Shults had a complex relationship with his father.
“I hadn’t seen him in 10 years. He suffered with addiction, alcohol