Deborah Ross

Do not be afraid

<p class="p1"><span class="s1">I never understood what ‘it’ was and whether it did come at night or at any other time</span></p>

It Comes at Night is a horror film and I can’t say horror is my favourite genre. In fact, as far as I can see, I haven’t reviewed a horror film since 2009 (Paranormal Activity; scared the bejeezus out of me). But I’d read that this was clever, engrossing and original, so why not? My bejeezus can take it once every eight years, surely. So we were braced, my bejeezus and I, but rather unnecessarily, as it turned out. This is not especially scary (thankfully, but even so) and, what is more, the storytelling is so spare that I never understood what ‘it’ was and whether it did come at night or at any other time. Mid-afternoon, say.

The film is written and directed by Trey Edward Shults, whose 2016 breakthrough film, Krisha, was terrific (look it up). This, I had further read, shows ‘a defiant disregard for modern horror tropes’. True, there are no shuffling dead people, or bumps in the night that turn out to be just the cat, but the action is all set Deep In The Woods, so, hello? Here, we find a family who have barricaded themselves into an isolated house — again: hello? — with boarded-up windows and two locked front doors. First one, then the other. Sinister. There’s a father, Paul (Joel Edgerton), a mother, Sarah (Carmen Ejogo), and their 17-year-old son, Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jnr), and as the film opens we hear them heavily breathing through gas masks while tending to an old man who is puking blood and covered in suppurating black boils, which is never good. He is Sarah’s father, whom Paul shoots in the head before dragging the body deeper into the deep woods where the corpse is incinerated. Bye, Grandpa.

This, we quickly understand, is a world that’s been ravaged by a horrendous and highly contagious disease that has left few survivors.

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