This week’s pick for the scariest horror movie currently streaming on Netflix is A24’s 2017 psychological horror film It Comes at Night, a movie you will watch while biting your nails off. The setting is deep in a dark forest in the post-apocalyptic near-future after a contagious virus has killed off most of humanity. Survivors Paul and Sarah, and their son Travis, deal with the recent death of Sarah’s father, whom they killed after he contracted the virus.
Soon after, Paul captures a man, Will, who breaks into their home and ties him to a tree. Will claims he did not know anyone lived in the house and was only trying to find supplies to help his family. The two families make a reluctant truce and decide to live together at Paul and Sarah’s home where they will all be better equipped for survival. Here’s the trailer:
Writer/director Trey Edward Shults wrote the script after his dad died in order to “deal with the pain.” Here’s how he described the process of writing this movie:
“I do think it worked as an act of grief and processing that grief. It was cathartic. But now it’s weird, because now I’ve made the movie and that was years ago. I had a weird relationship with my dad and he battled addiction and I hadn’t seen him in ten years and then I was with him on his deathbed. He was so full of regret and he didn’t want to let go and I was just trying to help him find some kind of peace. What I said to him was what Sarah says to her dad at the beginning of the film. Two months later, I just started writing. I don’t know why. And this whole story spun out of that. It’s obviously fictional, but it was that emotion and headspace and processing and dealing with my fears, basically. All of my fears are in this movie. The biggest one of all is mortality.”
You can read that opening scene here and it’s pretty easy to see how this scene came out of being at his dad’s deathbed.
Shults was also inspired by iconic suspenseful horror films like The Shining and Night of the Living Dead. One trick he picked up from Stanley Kubrick (who directed The Shining) is that like the Overlook hotel, the house in It Comes at Night has an uncertain floorplan that is never established. It’s a labyrinth. Here’s a short analysis of how Stanley Kubrick did this with The Shining and what it accomplished psychologically with the viewer: