Apoca­lypse wow IT COMES AT NIGHT ★★★★

Trey Shults dark, bril­liant film about the sus­pi­cions of strangers and the end of the world is a mys­te­ri­ous treat, writes Don­ald Clarke

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - DON­ALD CLARKE

Di­rected by Trey Shults. Star­ring Joel Edger­ton, Car­men Ejogo, Kelvin Har­ri­son Jr, Christo­pher Ab­bott, Ri­ley Keough. 15A cert, gen re­lease, 91 min “For what is a man prof­ited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” In his ter­rific se­cond fea­ture, Trey Shults, di­rec­tor of the fam­ily drama Kr­isha, ap­pears to an­swer St Matthew’s rhetor­i­cal ques­tion with the ex­pected an­swer. The dilemma here is grim­mer. In an apoc­a­lyp­tic Amer­ica, where cities have been laid low by a killer dis­ease, gain­ing the whole world equates with mere sur­vival.

The pic­ture be­gins with an ex­am­ple of the ar­range­ments Paul (Edger­ton) and his wife Sarah ( Ejogo) have been forced to make with their own con­sciences. Sarah’s fa­ther has con­tracted a con­di­tion that – with its pus­tules and vom­it­ing – seems not un­like Bubonic Plague. They solemnly take him out to the woods that sur­round their iso­lated home, shoot him in the head and burn his body. Greater com­pro­mises will fol­low.

Some short time later, Will (Ab­bott), a young stranger, blun­ders into their home. After much test­ing of his story, they al­low Will to bring his own wife Kim (Ri­ley Keough) and their young son An­drew (Grif­fin Robert Faulkner) to join their com­mu­nity. In­evitable ten­sions poi­son the frag­ile har­mony.

Fan­tas­ti­cally eco­nom­i­cal in its sto­ry­telling, It Comes At Night gives the au­di­ence enough dan­gling strands to hang each of the char­ac­ters sev­eral times over. Will and Kim are not be­ing en­tirely hon­est, but we can’t tell how dan­ger­ous their se­crets are. Travis (Har­ri­son Jr), Paul and Sarah’s son, prowls about the at­tic and spies on the fam­ily’s mys­te­ri­ous guests. His night­mares may re­veal truths about the na­ture of the dis­ease and the fu­ture that awaits them all.

Like the re­cent Get Out, It Comes At Night (whose ti­tle is never fully ex­plained) ad­dresses cur­rent so­cio-po­lit­i­cal dis­con­tents. Here is a film about sus­pi­cion of strangers that gets us right in­side the mind of the sus­pi­cious. But Shults’s film stews at a much lower tem­per­a­ture than Get Out. Brian McOm­ber’s shad­owy wood­land pho­tog­ra­phy sug­gests An­thony Dod Man­tle’s work on Lars Von Trier’s An­tichrist. Much of the ac­tion takes place out­side the frame. Many un­cer­tain­ties re­main after the cred­its roll.

It Come at Night is, how­ever, a treat to pon­der and de­con­struct. Som­bre noc­turnes are rarely so en­ter­tain­ing.

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