Adding "It" as a concept to a title automatically adds a measure of suspense to just about any film. 2014's independent thriller "It Follows" was an prime example of a moderately creepy film elevated because we really never know what "it" is. The 1953 sci-fi/horror classic create suspense with an unknown "it" taking control of an Arizona town.


Stephen King's "It" was a shift shaping child killer that posed as a clown. In 1955, "it" turned out to be a giant octopus in "It Came From Beneath the Sea"; kinda dumb too. Dolph Lundgren was in a film last year hunting demons in "Don't Kill It" kills it. The "it" always leaves us wondering if properly done.


Trey Shults creates a certain amount of mysterious tension with his second feature length film "It Comes at Night" using the undefined "it" as the primary film device. He cast a slate of good talent that includes Joel Edgerton ("Loving", "The Gift", "Black Mass"), Carmen Ejogo ("Selma", "Alien: Covenant", "The Purge: Anarchy"), and Chris Abbott ("Whiskey Tango Foxtrot", "A Most Violent Year") to emote paranoia about the "it". Then things just sort of stagnate.

Much like the Hughes Brothers 2010 thriller "The Book of Eli" and John Hillcoat's 2009 chiller "The Road", we are introduce to a world under siege from some sort of plague. What caused the plague or from where it came is of little importance; only that it exists and it can infect anyone.


The film opens in the middle of the woods at a well fortified home occupied by Paul (Edgerton), his wife Sarah (Ejogo), their son Travis (Kelvin Harrison, Jr) and Sarah's father Bud (David Pendleton). Poor Bud though has got the bug - his eyes turn black, he blisters and it's time to put him down; which Paul does with cold efficiency. He tosses the carcass in a hole and sets it on fire. Back into their fortress of solitude.


We don't know how Bud got "it", but he got it and the feeling in the home is tense with fear when a stranger breaks into the fortress with a tremendously load bang. The stranger, Will (Abbott), gets the living crap beat out of him by Paul and is subsequently tied up to a tree outside to see if he turns to mush. After a couple of days, Paul decides he's not infected and follows the request of Will to retrieve his uninfected wife Kim (Riley Keough) and son Andrew (Griffin Faulkner) who he left back a ways.


Paul complies and reluctantly invites the outside family to stay, though the house apparently isn't the fortress he thought it was. Everything seems fine as the two families get along. However, Travis starts to really notice how cute Kim is and they begin a very suggestive conversation that stirs all kinds of distrust and paranoia... leading to...


Well, this is where a lot of viewers are going to get pissed. The third act leaves much to be desired, especially after so much tension was created. The thrill of watching human frailties slither into closed arena is brilliantly staged. And then Shults seems to look around and say "Now what?"


In "The Road", Hillcoat just ended the movie. "The Book of Eli" ended with a lot of speculation. "It Follows" created a plausible and possible solution that never was proven, Shults instead tries to place a bow on "it" and toss it out there to see what happens. Hmph.


Needless to say, the actors do a great job of emoting the distrust, fear, lust and anger needed to carry most of the film. Great sound increases the anxiety. But the writer (that would be Shults) lets them down in the end.


"It Comes at Night" is a wonderful three-fourths movie before it completely collapses in the end. The tension is great, the emotions look real and then - plop.   -- GEOFF BURTON