Reviewed by: Douglas M. Downs
Starring: Laura Regan, Marc Blucas, Dagmara Dominczyk, Ethan Embry, Jon Abrahams | Directed by: Robert Harmon, Zbigniew Kaspruk | Produced by: Tom Engelman, Zbigniew Kaspruk | Written by: Brendan Hood, Zbigniew Kaspruk | Distributor: Dimension
A fleeting shadow, a whisper of wind in a closed room, the sense of someone-or something-following you. These were the stock-in-trade of the Gothic Horror films made during the ’40s. Producer Val Lewton was the main force behind this subtle approach to these low budget, black-and-white horror suspense films, in which everyday things like telephones, closet doors and alleyways were drenched in an atmosphere of paranoia and the terror of the unseen. The driving idea was less is more.
Today, some film directors are returning to that tradition. This is a welcome change from two decades of slasher movies. “They” is a psychological thriller in the “quiet horror” tradition of the ’40s. It is not as suspenseful as Gore Verbinski’s “The Ring”, but it is very well done.
Dimension Films continues their series of films called Wes Craven Presents:. The first three in the series, “Carnival of Souls”, “Wishmaster” and “Dracula 2000”, carried Mr. Craven’s name as executive producer. This time Wes’s name is only a seal of approval. He did not have anything to do with the project. I do know, having met Mr. Craven in person, that Dimension Films and Miramax keep a tight reign on what many of their directors can and cannot do. Personally, I think that it is tragic that these studios exploit his name (which is now synonymous with horror). But, as we all know, Hollywood is full of tragedies.
The film “They” deals with the night terrors that children often experience growing up. (This is not a remake of the SciFi Classic “Them”. In that film the story was about the attack of giant ants.) This movie is more a combination of an alien abduction and shadowy creatures that look like large eerie spiders. The truth is you never do get a good look at the object of everyone’s fear. Personally, I like the decision Director Robert Harmon made to keep these figures that stalk our dreams shrouded. It is almost like the natural fog that we have when we awaken from a dream: everything is rather fuzzy.
The story begins with a young boy named Billy. It is storming out and he is afraid of the dark. His mother tries to soothe her six-year-old’s fears by offering to leave the door open a crack, or the option of sleeping with his new flashlight. In the darkness, they still come for Billy and mark him. Our story then fast-forwards 19 years. Billy’s nightmares have returned and he calls upon his childhood friend, Julie (Laura Regan). Julie is working on her MA in psychology. The two of them meet in a rainy all-night diner. Julie listens to Billy as he tries to unpack and make sense of these nightmares. Shortly after their encounter, Billy takes his life and Julie is drawn into this dark and unexplainable world. She also meets two of Billy’s friends who share the same experience. The remainder of the film follows Julie’s pursuit to solve this horrifying mystery.
The “PG-13” rating should be observed. There is two scenes with premarital sex and one has a little more than partial nudity. There is also a strong theme of suicide as a solution to escape one’s fears. In the language category, there is one use of the f-word and a few obscenities. For those that like psychological thrillers, this one is better than most.