It’s full scream

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Living - - CINEMA -

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

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