Joel Edgerton stars in suffocating thriller that can’t come to a satisfying close

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“It Comes at Night” is a tightrope walk into the abyss that cannot quite find its way out.

Writer-director Trey Edward Shults, whose 2016 debut feature “Krisha” turned a Thanksgiving dinner into a claustrophobic domestic nightmare, gets a ton of credit here for creating a mood of exhilarating dread. He’s again dealing with themes of family and trust and protection, and the film slowly tightens its grip until its knuckles are white. But it slips at the end after backing into a corner it can’t find its way out from.

It’s a satisfying meal whose final bite goes down the wrong pipe.

A virus has ravaged the nation’s and possibly the world’s cities — it’s purposely left ambiguous — and a few scant survivors have been pushed out to the woods where mistrust is running high. That’s where Paul (a spellbinding Joel Edgerton) is living with his wife, Sarah (Carmen Ejogo), and his son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.). Sarah’s father is living with them too, but during the opening of the film he is shot, burned and buried out back after catching the disease. In survival mode, there’s no room for niceties.

One night, an intruder named Will (Christopher Abbott, also fantastic) breaks into Paul’s home and gets busted searching for food and water. Paul ties him up out back and interrogates him. But eventually he lets him and his family move into their home, and they form an alliance. But the tension between them never quite dissipates.

Midway through “It Comes at Night” you might wonder where it’s headed, and it seems Shults may have asked himself the same question. It’s a breathless thriller that will leave you gasping until it finally runs out of air itself.

agraham@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2284

@grahamorama

‘It Comes at Night’

GRADE: C+

Rated R For violence, disturbing images and language

Running time: 97 minutes

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