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A Film Diary

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Watched: 8 September

Trey Edward Schults’ second film has much in common with his first (last year’s Krisha, a minor indie gem about a recovering alcoholic woman who struggles to get through a Thanksgiving meal with her estranged family). Both are single-location movies (give or take) and both turn houses into oppressive, unsatisfyingly-charted spaces in which there is seemingly no escape from gathered family members and other temporary occupants. The external catalyst for change and the demon faced in Krisha was alcohol, whereas here the family that has turned their backwoods house into a makeshift fortress is battling something else; a disease, it seems, that has spread throughout the US and has apparently led to a devestating loss of life. (The trailer for It Comes At Night has the air of a zombie flick, or similar, though it isn’t that kind of horror film at all… apparently much to the chagrin of audiences.)

It quickly becomes apparent that the real threat comes from within, and thus what we have here is a character-driven film in which one family (Joel Edgerton, Carmen Ejogo, Kelvin Harrison Jr) reluctantly takes in another (Christopher Abbott, Riley Keough, Griffin Robert Faulkner), only for the various stresses and strains of the temporary houseshare and the apocalyptic nature of What’s Out There – a bit Walking Dead-y, with gun-wielding robbers liable to jump you in the woods at any minute – to eventually take their toll. It’s a subtle horror, evenly-paced and without much in the way of gore, and the cast do their jobs well enough. Perhaps my main issue with the film is that it intrigues at the start and remains similarly intriguing at the end, a positive for many critics but unfortunately I wanted it to suddenly go somewhere unexpected, to take the risk of shedding some of its ambiguity about the world outside, to let the house of cards that is created come tumbling down. Alas, it doesn’t do that, but it’s an effective enough thriller if you’re after something understated and suggestive. (***)

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