Maybe there is something in the air, but there seems to be no shortage apocalyptic films and TV shows. The trailer for It Comes At Night seems to be selling it as a cross between The Shining and 28 Days Later, but in reality, it is a low key, claustrophobic and highly disturbing look at ordinary people crumbling under extraordinary circumstances.
As a deadly and highly contagious disease has lays waste to the outside world, Paul, his wife Sarah, and their teenage son Travis lock themselves away in their country home. When a stranger breaks into the house, they grudgingly let him and his wife and new born baby stay with them. But have they let also in something more than just the people?
The three leads are thoroughly convincing, both individually and as a family, with Joel Edgerton giving Paul a grim, ruthlessly practical intensity. Kelvin Harrison Jr. excels as Travis, a teenager having to grow up fast and having to see things nobody should have to see.
Director Trey Edward Shults builds an oppressive world, and slowly ramps up the paranoia and tension. Much of the action takes place in the family home, but even when they venture further afield the forest they live in becomes an overbearing oppressive place, where we rarely see the sky or much of the world beyond the woods. In fact, few clues are given to the cause or nature of the outbreak, and the only backstory we get about Paul and his family comes from brief shots of family photos on the walls of their home, a throwback to happier days. That so much is left unexplained does not hinder the film as the focus is on the here and now, rather than how they or the wider world got to where they are.
Brian McOmber's soundtrack is a perfect accompaniment, an unsettling mix of synths, strings, and relentless percussion, which blends well with the heightened sound design.
If anything, It Comes At Night might be a victim of its own success, at least when it comes to recommending it. There is no let up from the grim fight for survival, and even as the characters trying to keep and air of normality and civilisation, there is a feeling that this is only staving off the inevitable, and the thought of the teenager and the baby having to grow up in this world is tragic. This is an intense and brilliantly executed piece of work, but don't expect to come through it feeling good about the world.