Thursday, May 28, 2015

Film Review: They (2002)

They (Review)
United States/2002
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: Yes

"...a mostly dull, been-there-done-that experience."

A psychology grad student, Julia (Laura Regan), begins to experience night terrors after her childhood friend, Billy (Jon Abrahams), warns They have returned...

They follows Julia, who's on top of the world before meeting with Billy. After her bloody meeting with Billy, Julia begins to experience night terrors — something she's dealt with as a child. Not only that, Billy's roommates also claim to be suffering from similar night terrors. Like Billy, they theorize They have returned — They being referred to as demons, although they look more like aliens. These creatures of the dark seem to have returned from these adults' childhoods to bring them to a dark place. They're also afraid of light and so on. Really, it feels like something I've seen millions of times. Even the ending, which was interesting, felt disappointing.

They is a very disappointing film overall. Conceptually, the narrative sounds decent — vicious creatures triggered by sleep that stalk you in the dark. Unfortunately, the film feels like pieces of several horror films crudely stitched together to create a body that functions, but it's missing life. In fact, at several points of the film, I felt like I was experiencing déjà vu. For example, there's a scene in a diner late at night where a distraught, sleep-deprived character warns of the returning dreams. I could have swore I saw this exact scene a handful of times in the past — I'm certain I've seen it at least once. The clichés never stop piling, either. The film takes the safe route home, never stopping for anything new or adventurous. Consequently, you get a mostly dull, been-there-done-that experience.

They, however, isn't the worst film I've ever seen. Like I said, I enjoyed the concept. Although it's not strong or unnerving, there's also some light suspense here and there. If you're a fan of jump-scares, They offers plenty of jolters — there was at least one that actually surprised me. The creatures or demons or aliens, or whatever you want to call them, usually linger in the darkness, which is good. You see, these creatures are reliant on early 2000s computer graphics, which wasn't all that immersive. So, when you start seeing the creatures towards the end, you feel less frightened. This is a case where the less you, see the better. Therefore, the presence of these mysterious creatures is best during the first hour or so, then they are too blatant and overused.

Laura Regan is occasionally passable, but she's mostly mediocre. Regan really lacks conviction and sincerity, she feels unnatural and out-of-place. Regan's leading performance also brings you out of the experience. The supporting cast is mostly decent, though. The film doesn't look bad. The music didn't really standout, either. Like the plot, most of the technical aspects of the film are safe. It's fine to take influence from other pieces of work, but I feel director Robert Harmon allowed too much of that influence into his film — it almost feels like you're watching their film instead of his. Harmon can build up some decent suspense and a few solid jump-scares, but, again, he's hindered by the predictable and safe writing.

Overall, They is a mediocre horror film. The concept is interesting, there are some decent jump-scares, and there is some suspense. However, most of the film feels cliché and generic. With a strong refusal to try anything new or experimental, the film becomes more dull with every passing minute. This isn't helped by Laura Regan's dull performance, either. Although the film often shows promise, it never quite reaches its potential. With a dull plot, a boring lead, and barely decent horror, it's hard to recommend anything more than a stream.

Score: 4/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood.

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