|Director||Trey Edward Shults|
|Starring||Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbot, Carmen Ejogo, Riley Keough, Kelion Harrison Jr.|
|Release||7 JUL (UK) Certificate 15|
That is until an outsider named Will (Christopher Abbott, aka Charlie from Girls) crashes in, claiming to be looking for water for own wife and son. Paul’s initial reaction is to tie him to a tree overnight, watched on in quiet horrified fascination by Travis. Is this a justifiable reaction to the desperate situation they’re in, or is Paul’s heavy-handedness a hint at how far someone will go, all in the name of family?
When Will’s wife (Riley Keough) and their young son Andrew arrive, tensions rise and something else begins to haunt Travis’s dreams. By now we realise, as with many horror films, daytime is good but when night comes, that’s when things (literally) get dark. Rattling doors, raging hormones and haunting memories of goopy grandpa do not a good combination make.
Director Trey Edward Shults presents the oddly blended family in a vacuum, and is wise to ration the schlocky jump-scares, leaving a thick sense of dread to hang in every scene. It’s not an easy task to subvert horror norms, and while he’s not exactly bringing anything new to the party, each second feels like an hour and we hang a little too long in every frame, adding to the sense of unease.
That’s not to say it’s not heart-thuddingly scary: Travis’s nightmares are incredibly creepy, aided by great editing and sound direction, and the lack of context means that when "It" comes, it could be literally be anything. The film plays with psychological terrors as much as traditional horror tropes, the really frightening stuff being only limited by what you can imagine. A special mention goes to Harrison Jr. whose reactions to off-screen horrors are superbly nuanced (he actually, genuinely looks properly scared). It’s his Travis who acts as the bridge between the two families and acts as our eyes to the horrors that are unfolding around him.
The pacing and lack of gore/information might not play well with a mainstream crowd, but Shults’s drawing out of tension without relying on clichés makes for a fascinating (and sweaty) watch. The world outside is a scary place, but it’s what’s inside that’s scarier.