Trey Edward Shults is a 28-year-old filmmaker who’s already made two films — the critically acclaimed 2015 drama “Krisha” and his most recent thriller, “It Comes at Night.”
Set in a post-apocalyptic future, the film follows a family living off-the-grid to avoid infection from a terrible disease. The main character, Travis, is a teenager adjusting to the bleak new reality.
When another family in need of help stumbles across their home in the woods, Travis’ family must balance caution with empathy.
“It Comes at Night" has a minimal plot and a lot of it takes place in one house. The characters’ relationships are inspired by Shults’ own family.
When Shults spoke with The Frame, he explained how writing the movie helped him confront his fear of death and deal with the grief of losing his father.
On how he sees himself reflected in the character of Travis:
I think a lot of Travis is a lot of me. And even while shooting, people would call me Travis by accident and call Travis "Trey." I think especially when you're at his age, you're trying to figure out the person you're going to be — the man you're going to be — and I think I became fascinated by this kid in the worst of circumstances. It's nearing the end of his world, and that's heartbreaking to me. I was fascinated by focusing on him in this environment. And it's his story. You get a lot of the other characters through his eyes as well, but that's what I was really drawn to.
On the influence of the artist Pieter Bruegel on his work, and why Bruegel's painting, "The Triumph of Death," is included in the film:
The house that this movie is based on is really inspired by what I think is my childhood house, which is my grandparents' house, called Pee Wee Acres, the ranch in Texas. My grandpa was a prisoner of war in World War II and he escaped. My grandma always told me about how he was a different man before he went in that war. And I thought it was fascinating. As a kid I noticed he had weapons on the wall, these ancient weapons, and he had one room just dedicated to all of his World War II paraphernalia. I had felt he wasn't a super emotional man and ... he expressed himself internally, literally, with what he put on his walls and in his house. I remember there was a Pieter Bruegel painting above the fireplace. So I became fascinated with Bruegel just from that, and remembered seeing that painting as a child. Then I had a Bruegel book and I flipped to the page with "Triumph of Death" and it haunted me. I was just awestruck by it. I also found out that he painted it during the Black Death, the Bubonic Plague, and it all just made sense and that started to click. I think that was another thing I was looking at a lot when I was writing the script. It was my dad's death and books on genocide and that painting. Very, very heavy stuff.
On what keeps him awake at night:
The biggest thing I'm afraid of is death and ... that I will be on my death bed with regret. Our world scares me, where it's at right now, these cycles of violence that we keep going through. And I think a lot of that stems from fear. But these were the things that I was fascinated by with this movie. And none of the violence in it is fun. And even if it's not a main character that dies, my hope is that in one shot, you can feel a history in them and that they're a human being and that any death or anything has weight.
To hear the full interview, click the blue player above.