Release: Friday, February 26, 2016 (limited)
Written by: Perry Blackshear
Directed by: Perry Blackshear
They Look Like People is the debut feature from Perry Blackshear, a quietly unassuming hybrid of horror and psychological thriller elements built on a shoestring budget. The film, which revolves around a young man who has visions of an impending apocalyptic event, premiered at the 2015 Slamdance Film Festival where it won the Special Jury Prize.*
Paranoia-induced tension is channeled through the film’s impressive use of limited, urban environments and largely unaffected craftsmanship. Absent are a great many genre tropes in favor of a more natural approach, an approach that slowly brings humanity to the fore rather than special effects and other forms of trickery. Jump-scares and caterwauling violins have no place here.
In his second feature Macleod Andrews plays mentally disturbed Wyatt, who manages to track down an old friend in Christian (Evan Dumouchel) while passing through New York City. When Christian offers for Wyatt to stay with him for a few days he bears witness to his friend’s increasingly strange behavior resulting from a steadfast belief that everyone around him is being infected by a sinister, possibly alien entity.
Christian spends his time engaging in more mundane activities, like working up the courage to ask out his boss (Margaret Ying Drake), motivating himself by listening to self-help tapes on his morning commute, and working on his physique. The dude-stuff is apparently him turning over a new leaf. This is a new Christian, he tells Wyatt over a game of hoops. In response Wyatt asks if “anything scary has happened to him,” as if evaluating how much change he’s willing to accept in his longtime friend before starting to worry about, well . . .
They Look Like People isn’t a consistently compelling package and obvious limited funding has an adverse effect on the film’s ability to convince us it knows what it’s doing at all times, but the leads are really quite likable and their rapport is authentic and enjoyable. While the ending leaves something to be desired, Blackshear’s vision proves a satisfactory treatise on the nature of friendship and how that fundamental bond cannot be broken in spite of changes, both subtle and significant, perceived or real.
* The film went on to receive limited distribution in America in February 2016, thereby making it eligible for review on this blog, wherE ANYTHING RELEASED within a year to the date is fair game.
Recommendation: Quiet, subtly disturbing indie horror/thriller boasts some spooky scenes and a great atmosphere. For fans expecting a lot of ‘stuff’ to happen though, They Look Like People may prove disappointing. But there’s enough here for me to say I’m excited to see what Perry Blackshear does next.
Running Time: 80 mins.
Quoted: “You are a mountain. You are a hundred miles high. You are invincible. You are forever.”
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