2017 Certificate: 15

Synopsis

In the aftermath of a deadly plague, a wary couple (Joel Edgerton and Carmen Ejogo) and their teenage son (Kelvin Harrison Jr) catch fellow survivor Will (Christopher Abbott) breaking into their house in the woods. In the interests of all, they allow Will and his own young family to share their family home. But there's no escape from the fear of what's outside... and what might already lurk within. Suspicion and paranoia ooze from every pore of this apocalyptic tale of survival.

Director

  • Trey Edward Shults

Cast

  • Joel Edgerton

  • Christopher Abbott

  • Carmen Ejogo

  • Riley Keough

  • Kelvin Harrison Jr

  • Griffin Robert Faulkner

Review

Outwardly, this sophomore feature from writer-director Trey Edward Schults has all the hallmarks of a standard cabin-in-the-woods potboiler. A deadly virus. Strangers at the door. A teenager with a peeping habit. A dog you might not want to get too attached to...

Thankfully, Schults continues down the path less trodden after his 2015 festival fave Krishna by eschewing gore and cheap shocks in favour of slow-building suspense and creeping paranoia.

The result is a dread-full - as opposed to dreadful - psychological nerve-jangler that creates an uneasy détente between two desperate families and keeps it perpetually hanging by a thread. Or, more accurately, the strap of a gasmask.

Those in the market for a gloopy case of ​Cabin Fever or a supernatural dose of the ab-dabs a la ​The Witch should look elsewhere.

More of a slow-burner in the style of Stephen Fingleton's ​The Survivalist, this preys on our fears using little more than old-fashioned human nature and the odd bad dream.

Great casting helps, with Edgerton and Ejogo as the long-married homeowners looking to impose their seniority on their younger, less fettered guests, credibly played by Abbott and Mad Max: Fury Road's Riley Keogh.

But it's Kelvin Harrison Jr who really impresses as Edgerton and Ejogo's teenage son Travis, who finds himself not only caught between a concerned father and a cooler father figure, but a doting mother and a disconcerting MILF.

Whether on purpose or not, Shults does have a tendency to leave key developments unexplained and overuse portentous music to add drama where it's not. But you never fail to get his nihilistic gist.

One thing's for sure: loving thy neighbour will be a darned sight harder after this.

Elliott Noble