It Comes at Night (2017)
Directed by Trey Edward Shults
When you hear Brian McOmber’s exceptionally tense score creep up in the background of director Trey Edward Shults’s thrilling new horror film “It Comes at Night,” you know anything could happen at any moment. What makes “It Comes at Night” so terrifying is that this music appears early and it appears often—so you rarely get a break from that constant pressure you feel on your chest, when you know something is about to happen but it hasn’t yet. And when something does happen, McOmber’s edgy synth turns into a beautifully sorrowful violin elegy. One of the best scores of the year (second only to “Get Out” in my book) belongs to one of the most thrilling movies of 2017 (again, only “Get Out” can top it). With McOmber’s help, “It Comes at Night” cuts deep.
Just weeks or months into a quickly spreading viral epidemic that has wiped out most of humanity, Paul (Joel Edgerton), his wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and their son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) lose Sarah’s father to the ugly disease. Shortly after, a quaint family—the first people they’ve seen in a while—stumble upon their house. Fearful of how the newcomers would respond if they didn’t react with kindness, they let them stay in their home. But their distrustful relationship only grows more suspicious as their time together in the woodland cabin drags on.
Joel Edgerton has done in ten years what many actors only hope to do in a lifetime. After breaking out in 2010’s “Animal Kingdom,” the Australian gangster film, and 2011’s “Warrior,” where he and Tom Hardy play brothers who both fight mixed martial arts, Edgerton has since starred alongside some of Hollywood’s brightest stars (like Leonardo DiCaprio and Johnny Depp), directed a feature film (2015’s “The Gift”) and earned himself a Golden Globe nomination (for 2016’s “Loving”). In “It Comes at Night,” like most of his other roles, Edgerton plays a remarkably relatable everyman. It becomes easy to empathize with his character’s unusual situation. The thrills become more personal; the potential loss all the more tragic. Playing the quiet, frightened teenage son, Kelvin Harrison Jr. adds more mystery to the film than almost any other element. Harrison begins to sync up with the audience, and his facial expressions convey the heightened emotions the audience feels. While Edgerton and Harrison pull more than their share of the weight, each member of this small cast plays their part in keeping up the suspense. I haven’t felt this tense in a theater in months. “It Comes at Night” delivers on its promise.