Review: 'It Comes at Night,' a brisk psychological thriller

Carmen Ejogo, left, and Kelvin Harrison Jr. are among the stars in "It Comes At Night."

A24 Films

The first sequence in “It Comes at Night” sets the stage for the terror that is to follow.

An older man in a family is quite ill. He is placed in a wheelbarrow, then rolled to a grave in a wooded area, where he is shot in the head and set ablaze.

Trey Edward Shults (“Krisha”) cuts to the chase for his audience: This isn’t going to be an easy movie to watch.

Mostly, the focus is on a single family sharing a house in a forest. Paul (Joel Edgerton, “The Gift” and “Loving”) lives with his wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo, “Alien: Covenant”), and their son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr., “The Birth of a Nation”). We don’t know what happened, exactly, and we really don’t need to, because we see the result: People are stricken with a ghastly, contagious illness that makes them incredibly ill and kills them within two days.

The family, led by Paul, who was a history teacher, dwells with security and routine in mind. Their dog, Stanley, keeps a close watch on the area.

One day, a stranger named Will (Christopher Abbott, “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot”) tries in to break in. After Paul captures him and Will assures him they are not carrying disease with them, Will arrives at the house with his wife Kim (Riley Keough, “American Honey” and, incidentally, the granddaughter of Elvis and Priscilla Presley, both of whom she resembles) and their little boy.

Paul has misgivings about the new arrivals. Something doesn’t quite add up, and Will doesn’t always seem to tell the truth. Still, he has sympathy for the little family, which reflects his own, and the six of them fall into an uneasy routine and alliance.

Travis is a young man who longs to return to the world as it was. He finds himself with a child and two other couples – he can hear their whispers and laughter all around him. He develops an interest in the vibrant Kim – we see right away that he has eyes for her, and she knows it. Travis begins to have nightmares that could be a portent of things to come.

And the tension within the newly formed household continues to grow.

You won’t see a single moment of bad acting here. Although he has been in dozens of productions, Edgerton is not yet a household word. He’s heading there, though, and you can see why in his edgy, memorable performance here.

The finale is wordless, chilling, and open to interpretation. Be prepared for a chill despite the weather outside.