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They (2002)
Directors: Rick Bota, Robert Harmon

review by Steve Anderson

It's another in a long string of more-of-the-same. There's been a real push on lately for 'monster/ demons that hate/ fear are physically wounded by the light' movies. They, Darkness Falls, Fear Of The Dark - every one part of a theme that's almost archetypal in its nature. It goes so far beyond cliché as to be almost a standard.

But there's more of the same here in Wes Craven's They, monsters that come out at night, terrorise their prey and then eat them. Although, I have to say... as is almost expected, nobody does it on a level more unnecessarily gruesome than Wes Craven. You've heard the term cinematic dynamite? Wes Craven is a big old drum of cinematic napalm. He is overkill in a box. Look at his body of work. The Hills Have Eyes, The Last House On The Left, A Nightmare On Elm Street... No one telegraphs their punches or bloodies their sets like Wes 'Nerve Gas' Craven.

But anyway, as for the plot - our leading lady receives a panicked phone call from an old friend in the middle of an amorous moment. Thus, she goes forth to investigate and meets her friend Billy (Jon Abrahams) at a diner for a quick cup of coffee and a conversation. The discussion turns violent when Billy, for what seems like no apparent reason, draws a pistol and shoots himself. But not before warning our leading lady, Julia (Laura Regan), about 'they', a terror that affects electrical systems and can't stand the light.

Julia goes home to sleep off the terrors of the previous couple hours and wakes up to a whole new set. A gurgling phone call wakes her out of a sound sleep. Her sink belches viscous black muck. Her bathroom mirror shatters. And worst, most terrifying of all - her boyfriend rushes in to help.

Seriously, this is the scariest part of the whole thing. We get this dolly shot rushing toward Julia, and then we get a side-on shot of the boyfriend and Julia. She's screaming in the bathroom after facing a sink full of the 'satanic blob' and he's barrelling in there like he's trying to kill her!

So then, she proceeds to make her weekend even worse and goes to Billy's wake/ visitation at his mother's house. Driving home, her car suddenly suffers a serious electrical failure. Armed with a flashlight, she goes forth to investigate. A sudden flash from the battery spawns a series of pained sounds from seemingly all around her. She trains the flashlight around, and finds nothing, as suddenly her flashlight dies. She climbs back in the car and cranks the engine, trying to get it to turn over. A whisper from beside her reveals Billy.

Yep. Dead old Billy, sitting in the passenger seat. She jumps backward, panicked, into the path of an oncoming semi. She recovers to find her car suddenly working... as though nothing had ever happened.

Going back to visit her old psychologist doesn't do much for Julia either, and digging through Billy's old journals is just positively creepy. Julia's friends are besieged by strange terrors in their apartment, and Julia finds an old tape of herself in the midst of a night terror, which she suffered frequently as a child.

A review of some classical woodcuts in her textbooks gives Julia some perspective on the things that have been belabouring Billy... and possibly, even herself. About midway through, we get our first look at the little buggers, and boy... are they nasty little sub-humanoids.

Julia's thesis defence tanks; falling apart midway through like a house of cards in a hurricane. She discovers that everyone who has seen these monsters has something in common; a mark, somewhere on their body. Almost like an infected mole, really. Julia has her boyfriend search her, and is surprised to find nothing at all. Julia's last surviving friend doesn't get off so lightly - the things come for him next.

A shocking encounter in Julia's apartment with the sub-humanoids leaves Julia in a terror in the bathroom of a Chinese restaurant. She pulls back her hairline to reveal where her mark had been hiding. Julia spends the remaining 15 minutes of film a marked woman, on the run through the city's subway system, dogged every step of the way by the monsters.

Fifteen minutes of climax for almost two hours of build-up? Talk about your lousy return on investment... We have our choice of endings... one significantly more disturbing than the other. But I'll leave it to you to decide which is worse.
They

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