Playback: Trey Edward Shults on ‘It Comes at Night’ and How Less Is More

Welcome to “Playback,” a Variety podcast bringing you exclusive conversations with the talents behind many of today’s hottest films.

Switching gears from the blockbuster/tent-pole fare this week we have “It Comes at Night” director Trey Edward Shults on the show. The 28-year-old filmmaker made a huge splash in 2016 with his debut feature, “Krisha” — a festival hit that brought him plenty of first-time filmmaker awards love — and he’s back this summer with a tightly-wound thriller that seeps right into your bones.

But “thriller” isn’t the best word. Don’t mistake this for anything looking for an easy reaction. Shults is patient with the genre elements of his film, and that’s an on-going lesson he’s learning as he develops his voice.

Listen to this week’s episode of “Playback” below. New episodes air every Thursday.

Click here for more episodes of “Playback.”

“What I think is more effective is less, especially with this movie,” Shults says. “And subtlety can go a long way. That goes from leaving narrative questions unanswered intentionally, so the movie sticks with you and you notice new things in it, all the way to how much you reveal about a character, to what we’re getting at thematically and not be too didactic about that and leave it open so people have different interpretations.”

Shults wrote “It Comes at Night” while grieving for the loss of his father. He was estranged from the man for quite a long time and was heavily impacted by the regret his father ultimately suffered. All of that made its way, emotionally or atmospherically, into the work.

Shults currently lives in Florida, and it’s a remove from the industry he finds refreshing. “I like going back to a world where no one gives a shit what you do,” he says. He’s even eager to shoot his next film there, something he started writing during pre-production for “It Comes at Night.”

“Images were in my head and it took a while for it to click,” he says. “Instead of death and fear being the thing that clicked it [like ‘Night’], for this one it was love and hate and that dichotomy. It’s a family over the course of a year and these kids in high school and it’s split into two halves. I want it to flow like a piece of music, like ‘Goodfellas’ or ‘Boogie Nights’ or ‘Dazed and Confused.’ The first half is this downward spiral into tragedy, and the second half is recovering from that tragedy and leading into love and light.”

For more, including a bit of video game inspiration for the new film as well as movie inspirations — from “The Shining” to Paul Thomas Anderson to “The Land Before Time” — listen to the latest episode of “Playback” via the streaming link above.

Subscribe to “Playback” via iTunes.

Trey Edward Shults photographed exclusively for the Variety Playback podcast
Dan Doperalski for Variety

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