It Comes at Night

Jun 7, 2017

One of the best horror mysteries in recent memory.

Grade: A-

Director: Trey Edward Shults

Screenplay: Shults

Cast: Joel Edgerton (The Gift), Christopher Abbott (A Most Violent Year)

Rating: R

Runtime: 1 hr 37 min

by John DeSando

“We have to be smart; we can't be emotional.” Paul (Joel Edgerton, also executive producer)

It Comes at Night, written and directed with claustrophobic precision by Trey Edward Shults, is a smart horror mystery, where you will be emotional because you  will be there in the forest fortress trying to survive a plague outside and two families’ trust issues inside. If you’re thinking of 10 Cloverfield Lane and its internal warfare, you are in the right stadium or better, coliseum, to watch Darwinian struggles up close and personal.

In this post-apocalyptic world, Paul, his wife, Sarah (Carmen Ejogo), and 17 year old son, Travis (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.), have sequestered themselves until another family of three lands in their home out of the resident family's good will.  While the plague outside is the reason to mistrust any incursion, for  good people there is no excuse not to have let the new family in.

From the film's  first shot of Grandpa being dispatched because of his bubonic-like infection to the last shot with two adults mutely facing each other at ends of a table , the film is uncompromising about the difficult decisions to be made in order to survive. Because the shots are frequently tight, the audience should feel the imprisonment of the plague on the outside and the horror inside.

Many shots are of Travis, essentially from his point of view, to emphasize the inscrutable nature of survival and the concomitant loss of innocence. Although he has affection for the husband, Will (Christopher Abbot), and his comely wife, Kim (Riley Keough), as well as their young son, Andrew (Griffin Robert Faulkner), Travis witnesses what the damage is allowing the outside world into your world. The decisions each family must make illuminate contemporary isolationist global policies to the extent that one nation's own survival may lead to the destruction of another.

It Comes at Night is one of the best horror films in the last few years, ranking with The Witch, Blair Witch Project, and 10 Cloverfield Lane for minute by minute suspense and meta questions about trust, charity, and the evil of mankind. Yes, it could as well have come from Hawthorne’s pen.  

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at