LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Trey Edward Shults burst onto the movie scene two years ago with his first film, festival favorite "Krisha," made on a paltry $30,000 budget with his own family members as actors.
"Krisha," a 2015 film about addiction that drew from the writer-director's personal life, went on to be one of the best reviewed films of the year and won several awards.
Now Shults, 27, appears to have done it again with a horror and psychological thriller, prompted by a deeply personal experience, that has scored glowing reviews.
"It Comes at Night," out in U.S. movie theaters on Friday, revolves around a family of three, led by dad Paul (Joel Edgerton), that is trying to survive in a plague-infested North America.
The film starts with a shocking death and develops further into unease and paranoia when another family of three turns up at the rustic, remote home asking for refuge. Paul begrudgingly agrees.
Shults said the impetus for what he calls a scary, emotional and non-conventional horror film, came from his own father's death.
"The opening scene of the movie... is what I said to my dad on his deathbed, and he was full of fear and regret and he didn't want to let go.
"It was a traumatic thing that changed my life and two months after that I wrote this script and it like spewed out of me in three days... I was clearly grappling with the emotions that were going on in my head and applying that to this fictional narrative," he said.
Shults said much of the character of teen son Travis, who has nightmares, is also based on himself.
"I have trouble sleeping at night. I'm really a night owl and night is when my brain is really active and it's when everyone else is asleep and you have to confront your own thoughts in a world that's quiet."
Despite the glowing reviews, one person who has not watched the finished film is Shults himself.
"We did a small test screening with a way rougher cut a while back and I had a few drinks and I broke down sobbing at the end of it uncontrollably, which I think was due to the fact of the personal nature of the movie but also just how exhausted I was from working and a few drinks," he said.
"I haven't watched it since."
Reporting by Reuters Television; Editing by Dan Grebler