The mysterious new film from A24, IT COMES AT NIGHT, has come to theaters nationwide. The story centers on a small group of people that try survive a wide range of threats, both external and internal.

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with writer-director Trey Edward Shults (Krisha) about the atmospheric thriller, starring Joel Edgerton, Carmen Ejogo, Riley Keough, and Kelvin Harrison Jr.

I guess that it must feel good to get such an amazing response after doing a film so personal, and in a way risky, like this one. Right?

Yes. But I am a paranoid person, so it’s hard for me to feel the love. I am always waiting for the the train to go off the rails. I am happy that I was able to make it.

I really like that, even though the film has these horror elements, the most meaty and interesting stuff comes from people just talking.

I never approached it as a horror movie. For me it was just a new story. It came from a very personal place, so it isn’t until know that I can look back and dissect it. I just people to see it with an open mind, not expecting a conventional horror film.

The story asks many questions: “What happens if suddenly there is no more electricity, Internet, social conventions…” But also “Are we humans inherently good, or bad?” How much fun was to explore this side of human nature?

I am fascinated by it. I was in grief when this project started, I just had lost my father. But then it grew into many things. My step dad always said to me “You can’t trust anyone, but family.” I don’t know if I agree with that, but I am curious about it. We can see that in the relationship between the dad and the young man in this movie.

The film features many amazing performances from great actors. Joel Edgerton is also a Director. Was directing him a little bit intimidating?

It wasn’t intimidating for me, it was exciting. I had seen his stuff, and read a few interviews, so I was a fan. I was sure that we would see things eye to eye. On the first day of shooting, Joel kind of questioned the way I was framing a scene, and I explained to him that I was approaching it in a different way. He quickly understood that I wanted to do things in a very unique way. It was a great collaboration.

When did you realized that you were challing the Hollywood convention “Never work with animals and kids”?

Great question. I had worked with animals in my previous films, but those were family animals. I don’t think that I ever grasped how tricky it would be until we were fully on production. I had chosen this 12-years-old dog because he had character. When we got to the location, I found out that he couldn’t run fast, so we had to find a running double. The kid was amazing, I worked a lot with him. Movies present many unique challenges and you need to keep going.

Every time that I see a red door in a thriller I think of The Sixth Sense because Shyamalan talked a lot about the importance of the red color in that film. Was the decision of making it red a call back to a particular movie?

I haven’t seen The Sixth Sense in a long time. No, it was a decision that I made during the writing process. To me, that door is a gateway to the unknown, to fears, to Travis’ fears. That door, that hallway and those pictures on the wall were in my first draft. Metaphorically, is very important to what the movie is about.

I appreciate when films leave some space for the audience to fill in the blanks. But I can also understand when they feel that a filmmaker intentionally denies all the pieces of a puzzle. I guess that in this case, is more about staying honest to the story, rather than “playing” with the audience, right?

Yes. It’s interesting. I really wanted this film to stick with you, instead of being something easily digestible that you watch and never think about it again. I hope that it gets under your skin, one way or another. But I don’t do things to frustrate. If I leave something unanswered, is because the characters don’t know the answer, so we can’t know it either. If you get pass that, the movie is about the unknown and the fear of the unknown. Who knows if I underestimated how much that can frustrate someone, but that’s the storytelling that I like.

IT COMES AT NIGHT is now playing in theaters nationwide.

Secure within a desolate home as an unnatural threat terrorizes the world, the tenuous domestic order he has established with his wife and son is put to the ultimate test with the arrival of a desperate young family seeking refuge. Despite the best intentions of both families, paranoia and mistrust boil over as the horrors outside creep ever-closer, awakening something hidden and monstrous within him as he learns that the protection of his family comes at the cost of his soul.