She also spills on director Trey Shults casting choices and raising a teen on screen.
It Comes At Night, a new film from A24 and director Trey Shults, hit theaters Friday with a cast that includes Carmen Ejogo, Joel Edgerton, Christoper Abbott, Kelvin Harrison Jr., and Riley Keough.
The gripping psychological horror follows a family living in a cabin in the woods after a virus takes hold of the world. Tension builds in the film, which on the surface follows the cabin-in-the-woods horror theme to a T, but allows for various layers underneath.
ESSENCE spoke to Ejogo about what ‘It’ is, the coming of age story underneath the horror, and the interracial family at the center: Paul (Edgerton), Sarah (Ejogo), and Travis (Harrison).
"I love the fact that Trey has been very smart at keeping a lot of information about a lot of things from the audience because then the more powerful horror comes into imagination,” Ejogo shared while discussing the horrifying film.
The film never really reveals what ‘It’ is, the paranoia, the disease, but for Ejogo it’s the fear around the disease that drives everything. “Much like Ebola in America or Zika, or something that comes to us in some terrible way. Some people don't really know what that stuff looks like, yet the amount of terror that it can do to some people and the paranoia are so powerful that it is amazing to me how little information or true information it takes to actually put people over the edge.”
The film’s paranoia could also be tied to one the messages underneath. Spoilers ahead for those who haven’t seen the film.
The family at the center of the story reluctantly welcome another family seeking refuge. Soon, things begin to unravel and the paranoia and distrust amongst the families seems similar to the world’s current political climate.
Also at the center of It Comes At Night is a coming-of-age story with Paul and Sarah’s son Travis at the center. Travis is battling teen urges, horrifying nightmares, and an outside world that’s completely changed.
"I have a fifteen year old, it's not something I haven't imagined, what would happen if we couldn't afford the lifestyle that we have,” Ejogo told ESSENCE, reflecting on what it would be like to raise a teenager in a post-apocalyptic world.
“You know, I sometimes see images from other parts of the world where families are trying to raise normal children in war zones, which is a different kind of trauma, but we’re talking about people with minimal resources, minimal potential for giving their children a full enriched life, which is something many of us take for granted in this country.”
While there are layers to It Comes At Night one thing that’s hard to miss is the interracial family at its center. It shouldn’t be a big deal, but it is when you consider the fact that interracial families aren’t a regular on-screen occurrence.
“This is something that I’ve told Trey [Shults]," Ejogo said. "I’ve told the casting director Catherine, and I’ve told A24. They have set out to do what we all know needs to happen more on screen, which is that the true diversity of real life needs to happen more on screen.”
Adding, "I was incredibly excited to learn that Trey had a few actors in mind when he was thinking about it, and he ended up choosing the actors that he really believed was the best part for the job. As a result, and fully knowing in making that choice, he would then have to cast Travis as a brown-skinned lead actor in his movie. There is so much from his point of view, however you critique that role, we are watching it through his eyes.”
It Comes At Night is in theaters now.