IT COMES AT NIGHT: The best teleplays penned by Rod Serling for “The Twilight Zone” were simultaneously chilling and thought-provoking. I found those characteristics in this creepy thriller about a survivalist family (Joel Edgerton, Carmen Ejogo, Kelvin Harrison Jr.) forced to live in their barricaded home to shield themselves from an unknown global pandemic that kills people badly and quickly. Praise goes out to a make-up department that made the victims look truly “diseased”. Complications ensue when a couple (Christopher Abbott, Riley Keough) with a small child (Griffin Robert Faulkner) seeks living space with them. Skillfully directed, written and co-edited by Houston native Trey Edward Shults, the film’s focus is on the depths of soul-killing brutality that humans will descend to for self-preservation. Though never acknowledged, the interracial composition of Edgerton’s (MIDNIGHT SPECIAL) familial unit carries the kind of underlying sociological implications found in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968) where a black man’s advice gets everyone killed. All that aside, the movie lays out a relatively believable situation with no special effects or zombies while continually building up a sense of dread and tension. Horror films, going back to the late ‘90s, have often placed what’s outside of the camera’s frame as the object of fear and there are sequences which allude to this. But halfway through the compact narrative, attention is turned to the ill-fated drama inside the “sanctuary” before heading to an unsettling and violent climax that packs a wallop despite being completely logical. When the concluding shot (Which I won’t reveal.) is laid out, it’s quietly devastating in such a fashion that the survivors must be surely left to wonder if life, as it exists, is worth hanging on to. CRITIC’S GRADE: B+

DOUBLE FEATURE: The bond between an outspoken female marine (Kate Mara) and her bomb-detecting German Shepherd are at the soft heart of MEGAN LEAVEY. The tie that binds the pair together is that neither female nor beast “connects well with people”. Together, they were able to defuse numerous roadside bombs before being injured in a chaotic and harrowingly depicted firefight in Iraq. The screenplay is formulaic and straightforward with a needed boost from Mara’s (THE MARTIAN) sincere performance. There are copious amounts of sentiment to be found but they’re not forced and there’s merit in any movie that can make you cry like a little girl before you go home and hug your dog. CRITIC’S GRADE: B