It Comes at Night oozes paranoia and dread


By Steve Newton

First you had the awesome Get Out blowing scary-movie fans away with its shockingly sly take on racism in America. And now you’ve got It Comes at Night and its gloomy commentary on the Trump-inspired fear of outsiders.

Socially reflective horror is back bigly, baby!

But while Get Out took some blackly comic jabs at people’s perceptions of racial inequality, It Comes at Night offers no such witty relief. It is one dark and downbeat mofo of a movie.

The film opens with Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) saying her final goodbyes to her father. He’s covered in scabs and gravely ill; she’s wearing a gas mask to avoid ending up the same. Her tense husband Paul (executive producer Joel Edgerton, from The Gift) and teenage son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) carry the dying man outside in a wheelbarrow, shoot him in the head, and burn his body in a shallow grave.

That’s about as lighthearted as things get.

The mixed-raced trio–along with much-loved mutt Stanley–goes about its life in a big wooden house in the woods, having taken shelter from an unnamed plague that has apparently ravaged the world. But one night stranger Will (Christopher Abbott) breaks in and is taken captive by the ever-vigilant Paul, who eventually decides that–like himself–Will is just a good man desperately trying to keep his family alive. He agrees to take in these refugees–including Will’s young wife and toddler son (Riley Keough and Griffin Robert Faulkner)–in part because they have a supply of food (goats, chickens, canned goods) that his own family is in dire need of.

Once the two clans get settled in the fuse is lit on a slow-burning exercise in psychological dread, as the wary Paul must fight his gnawing fear that the outsiders aren’t really what they seem. The dingy house (no electricity) becomes a claustrophobic playground of paranoia, and what comes at night is not a horde of plague-infested invaders but man’s primal fear of the unknown, in this case the uncertain intentions of others.

Prepare to be disturbed.

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