Review: They Look Like People (2016)

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“If something really scary was happening, would you be on my side?”

That line by Macleod Andrews, playing Wyatt in Perry Blackshear’s directorial debut They Look Like People, to his best friend, Evan Dumouchel’s Christian, lies at the crux of this minimalist psychological horror film. They Look Like People is not your average horror film. It plays deftly with audience expectations much like Jacob’s Ladder and Possession in making the audience question what is real and actually happening and should we trust the film’s protagonist. More than that, it is a film that makes the viewer take a close look at the value of friendship and would we place that value over something that could potentially doom the world?

They Look Like People begins with the character of Wyatt (in a great nuanced and believable performance throughout by Andrews) looking at his fiancee Hannah as she lays there sleeping in the darkness. Without any words and just by lighting and sound design, we know that Wyatt has some serious issues going on. While we as the audience are commonly lead to believe in films that what the protagonist sees as gospel, Wyatt is an unreliable narrator. We are left to wonder if his wavering conviction in his actions throughout the film is the result of his possible status as a human “blessed” with the ability to see aliens who are disguised as humans for an evil purpose or, instead, that he is suffering from a mentally illness.

Wyatt reconnects with his former best friend Christian, played by Evan Demouchel, as an attempt to find a anchor in this sea of uncertainty about what is going with his life. Christian is also a nuanced character; he harbors a deep attraction for his co-worker Mara, but has been trying to work up the courage to ask her out for months, he also listens to self help mp3s on the subway and writes himself notes to work up his confidence. Christian clearly realizes that Wyatt needs help and takes him in to try and help him, not realizing the possible delusions that Wyatt is dealing with. As the film progresses, Christian tries very hard to help Wyatt; even confessing that he tried to kill himself over a year ago and that he has made an appointment for Wyatt because it helped him with his depression and he doesn’t want to lose his friend. This comes shortly after Wyatt begins stockpiling on sulphuric acid and receiving phone messages telling him an apocalypse is coming.

They Look Like People is a personal film. Blackshear has spoken about how the genesis of the story came from a similar incident in his life where a mentally ill friends believed people were changing and becoming monsters. The film examines the strength of close friendships and whether they are enough to tether us when we are at our breaking points, regardless of whether the cause is neurological or otherwise. The film deftly plays with this in the last 15 minutes of the film where Christian learns of what Wyatt believes and has to trust him in order to help him. Whether that help is in fighting off body snatchers or otherwise is less relevant than the fact that Wyatt needs it and would we as the audience go as far as Christian would in order to help and save his friend.

They Look Like People is an excellent minimalist thriller that builds a palpable sense of tension and dread throughout. Don’t miss it if you have the chance.

They Look Like People is available on VOD starting March 11th from Gravitas Ventures.

Purchase Links

They Look Like People (2016) on VOD through Amazon Video

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