Fright Fest 2017 #2 – They Look Like People (2015)

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Can you fear me now?

Subgenre:  Psychological

Summary:  A young man has visions of demons disguised as human beings.

Review:  Christian, a New York bachelor with lofty personal goals, is surprised to run into his old friend Wyatt in what seems to be a chance encounter.  Wyatt, claiming to be passing through the city, is acting slightly off, but Christian shrugs it off and insists that he stay in his apartment.  Unbeknownst to Christian, Wyatt is receiving mysterious phone calls from a digitally masked voice, which warn him that the world is filled with demons that have taken on human form.  As the calls increase, so does the erraticism of Wyatt’s behavior as he begins preparing for the coming “war.”

They Look Like People is an impressive effort, especially considering its obviously tight budget.  The two leads generate enough easy chemistry for us to believe their long history, and director Perry Blackshear creates a palpable sense of foreboding with his limited resources.  We don’t know the reality of the demon threat until the very end, but through the movie’s use of disturbing sound and visuals, we feel how real it is to Wyatt, who’s torn between protecting himself and saving his friend.  And with the help of some understated digital effects, the movie boasts some genuinely chilling moments.

The story is slow-paced yet intriguing, though it occasionally falls prey to indie movie navel-gazing with improvised hanging-out scenes that do nothing to advance the plot. Considering the movie’s short length, it’s hard not to read these moments as filler.  But by and large, They Look Like People is a compelling exercise in suspense; keeping us wondering if the demons are real, if Wyatt is insane, or both.  The last-minute reveal can’t help but feel a little anti-climactic, but it’s by no means a bad ending.

The Verdict:  A well-written character study with moments of sheer terror, They Look Like People is a testament to the effectiveness of less-is-more horror.  I give it seven disguised demons out of ten.

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