Written By: AR
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
Director(s): Robert Harmon
Writers(s): Brendan Hood
Producer(s): Ted Field, Tom Engelman
Date Released: November 27, 2002
Laura Regan as Julia Lund
Marc Blucas as Paul Loomis
Ethan Embry as Sam Burnside
Dagmary Dominczyk as Terry Alba
Jon Abrahams as Billy Parks
Jay Brazeau as Dr. Booth
Rating = 1/5 Graves
***May contain some spoilers***
Julia (Laura Regan) used to experience severe night terrors when she was a child. Twenty years later, she is now a psychology student about to defend her thesis. After a night out with her boyfriend, she receives a call from her childhood friend, Billy (Jon Abrahams). Billy, who suffered from the same night terrors, tries to warn her that “they” left a mark, and “they” are coming after them now. As Billy becomes more unstable, and the lights keep flickering from the city blackout, he pulls out a gun and kills himself right in front of Julia. At his funeral, Julia is approached by Sam and Terry, Billy’s friends from college who also experienced childhood night terrors. They ignored Billy’s incoherent ramblings but are starting to feel someone coming after them too. Julia consults her childhood psychologist about the recurring nightmares but the doctor convinced her it might just be due to the trauma and stress caused by recent events. When the mark resurfaces on Julia, she must face the dark and stop running away from “them”.
They (2002) does not utilize much gore. As Billy shoots himself in the head and spews blood, the subsequent blood sprayed on Julia’s face. The wounded mark left by the creatures of the night terrors is ghastly and bloody. When it appears on Julia’s forehead, she pulls out a huge sharp splinter from the small wound. The black and red night terror monsters are designed to be skeletal and slimy creatures with grotesque sinewy limbs. The alternate universe they are inhabiting is appropriately graphic and creepy.
The Grave Review
They (2002) is a rather frustrating example of a movie telling rather than showing. It is not able to establish a foundation of why the audience is supposed to be scared. Only relying on flickering lights, sudden movements, and frequent jump cuts, it is not able to sustain the fright factor and loses steam by the end. Moreover, lighting technique and color grading seems to be incongruent with the film’s theme. The night terrors are assumed to emerge only in the dark but the movie’s day and night scenes are hard to distinguish from each other. Some of the night scenes are not dark enough, confusing the viewers’ expectations and anticipation of the monsters.
The one-dimensional characters are accompanied by the superficial and stilted dialogue and subpar acting. Particularly in the case of Julia who seems to be senselessly put in stressful situations with no logic behind it. Running away, she immediately goes to a deserted train station in the middle of the night. When it starts to close down, she screams and tries to leave. Why even go there in the first place? Also, she might be forgetting that she owns a car. However, the train is miraculously still running at 2am. She gets in an empty train car, gets off on the tracks when it stalled, shouts at it when it left her there, then put herself in front of the moving train. By the end of the movie, her frequent screams become more and more aggravating.
There is a problem with using pop psychology as the foundation of your plot. The way it unfolds, it seems to be equating the feelings of someone who is haunted by a monster with suffering from mental illnesses. The comparison diminishes real mental health problems and is a harmful portrayal of people with mental health disorders. It became uncomfortable to watch because the character is clearly exhibiting the symptoms of someone with post-traumatic stress disorder, yet throughout the movie, Julia has no agency of her own and is dismissed at every opportunity. Are you supposed to pity her and empathize that no one is believing her? Is she really suffering from trauma and stress disorder and cannot think clearly? With no clear delineation from the direction of the movie and feeling removed from Julia’s motivations, the audience cannot help but criticize her actions and the way the movie portrayed her. If they are trying to personify the mental illness into a monster form and portray the suffering caused by mental disorders, they did not really depict it successfully.
For those reasons, Grave Reviews gives They (2002) one out of five graves.
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