Tag Archives: psychological thriller

It Comes At Night (2017)

9 Jun

Hot off the heels from his directorial debut Krisha, Trey Edward Shults again uses the camera as his psychological tool to pry open and dismantle the collective psyche of a family in chaos, this time with a horror-centric approach.

It Comes At Night is a psychological thriller set somewhere in a remote post-apocalyptic North America. A fatal disease has spread so fast that the core pillars of society have collapsed, triggering Paul (Joel Edgerton) to place his family on lockdown in a secluded cabin some 50 miles or so away from the nearest city center. It’s here they learn to be self-reliant, living day by day completely off the grid and away from any other survivors. Soon, Paul crosses paths with Will (Chris Abbott), another survivor who might be willing to trade some of his food in exchange for a truck-ride back to his family.  Paranoia abounds.

If it wasn’t already clear from the title, it becomes obvious from the first few minutes of the opening scene that things are going to get dark (both figuratively and literally).  Shults has a real talent for avoiding first act exposition and slowly revealing details about this world bit by bit.  Instead, the director focuses his energy creating tension out of the smallest moments with help from the cinematographer Drew Daniels;  a lingering slow zoom through an empty hallway becomes absolutely horrifying in the hands of these two. The entirety of the film takes place either inside Paul’s cabin or the woods directly adjacent to it, creating a claustrophobic quality that increases in tension along with the rising emotional status of our characters. It Comes At Night isn’t a film that is concerned with what anyone does or says so much as it is with what is going on in the mental spaces between the characters.  This type of film would not work if it wasn’t for the acting strength of everyone involved, and fortunately the supporting cast of Riley Keough, Carmen Ejogo, and Kelvin Harrison Jr. create a palatable unease within their performances.  It’s remarkable how much genuine suspense can be milked from It Comes At Night’s slim narrative; the spooks are few and far between, but the emotional payoffs this film brings to the table are the powerful kind that stick in your gut after the credits roll.

Bottom Line: Confident direction and a refusal for all things explained make It Comes At Night an essential and thrilling piece of psychologically provocative cinema. 

Rating: 8/10 

Film recipe:  Prisoners + Children of Men + The Road

Goodnight Mommy (2015)

11 Sep

It’s been the quite the year to be a horror movie fan. From fear-inducing breakout indies like It Follows to horror-comedies like What We Do In The Shadows, to upcoming releases from horror veteran directors like M. Night Shyamalan or Guillermo Del Toro, it seems like we have entered into some new genre reconnaissance. Sure, there will always be the thoughtless franchise sequel or reboot looking to make a quick  cash grab (I’m looking you, Poltergeist), but one look at A24’s new trailer for The Witch shows there is still original quality material to get scared for.

And the trend is spreading outside of North America too. In fact, many of the decade’s best genre films have come from different places in the Middle East,  South Asia or Europe. The new German psychological thriller Goodnight Mommy from directors Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz fits into the latter camp. Taking its cues from European neo-realist directors like Lars Von Trier and Michael HanekeGoodnight Mommy tells the story of a mystery surrounding a particular dysfunctional family consisting of The Mother (Susanne Wuest) and her twin sons Elias and Lukas (played by real-life twins Elias and Lukas Schwarz). The trio are isolated in a massive, upper class home nestled deep in the German countryside. It’s unclear at first exactly what has happened to this family; we do know the mother’s face appears to have been replaced by a gruesome medical bandage after an operation, and the two boys have some sort of terrifying preoccupation with collecting cockroaches…

The performances from the young twins, though mostly silent, are hauntingly genuine and give the film a launching pad to explore the dynamics of three characters forced to share the same physical and psychological spaces. Slowly and quietly, the film transforms into a walking daytime nightmare – the living, breathing, kind of a nightmare you can not wake from. The end results are raw, disturbing and authentically scary.

A tight slowburn, the film is expertly paced to reveal only the smallest pieces of information when the audience needs it. Goodnight Mommy relies heavily on atmosphere and tone, which Fiala and Franz have crafted to a fine degree. It’s enough to discourage viewers accustomed to constant jump scares and gore, but Goodnight Mommy is too sophisticated for its own good, much so that when the violence does arrive, it is extremely unsettling.

Bottom Line: While its slower pace might not be for everyone, Goodnight Mommy is a quiet but satisfying artistic examination of loneliness and fear with enough depth and emotion to make second viewings an absolute necessity.

Rating: 8/10

Film Recipie: Vic + Flo Saw A Bear (2013) + Dogtooth (2009) + Michael Haneke