Movies like “They” and the recent “Darkness Falls”, and even the recent Spanish horror film “Darkness”, are the primary reasons why American horror film buffs have had to go to the Japanese for their horror fix. With generic films like “They”, which goes for cheap Boo Scares rather than actual terror, is it any wonder Japanese Dark Hair Ghost Stories such as “Ring” and the excellent “Kairo” are suddenly the “in” thing? No wonder American filmmakers are falling over themselves to remake Japanese horror. Simply put, American horror films are lame.
Robert Harmon’s “They” continues the trend of lameness as well as the trend of using darkness as the killer instead of the usual masked psycho. Laura Regan (“My Little Eye”) stars as Julia, our 20-something Fair Hair Lead who must battle ferocious little, er, insect-thingies that are, it is revealed, some sort of inter-dimensional kidnappers. For whatever reason, the little buggers are terrorizing young children, marking them, and then sending them back out into the world only to return to “collect” them as adults. Why? I have no idea whatsoever and, I suspect, neither does the movie.
The movie never explains a lot of things, like how the inter-dimensional insects move through dimensions via the darkness. The screenplay by Brendan Hood may have been a good read in an earlier incarnation (which is a big leap of faith, natch), but the film that has resulted is a bust. There are no scares here, no horror, and definitely nothing to jump at. This, despite director Harmon’s insistence that we be scared, because he keeps throwing one Boo Scare after another at us. Gee, Robert, the sound of little insects crawling around and making gobblely-gook noises offscreen is sure scary. (At this point you should be able to see me rolling my eyes.)
There’s a constant running theme in the background about the movie’s city suffering through blackouts, which I expect is Harmon and Hood’s attempt at convincing us that all of those silly insects and their abilities to turn off lights may just be coincidental. I.e. maybe there aren’t any little critters rushing to and fro in the background like busy bees, but rather our characters just imagining them. Of course all of this “maybe, maybe not” questioning seems rather moot considering that we’ve just seen a couple of victims get grabbed from behind and pulled into the darkness.
“They” is essentially a Teen Slasher, and even by that genre’s low standards the film is a complete failure. Marc Blucas (“We Were Soldiers”) plays the boyfriend that goes from trustworthy one moment to a liability the next, while Ethan Embry (“Sweet Home Alabama”) and Dagmara Dominczyk (“Count of Monte Cristo”) plays two strangers who share a common bond with Fair Hair Lead Julia. As expected, the establishment has no clue what’s going on and the critter attacks always seem to conveniently take place when no one except the would-be victim is around. And as was the case in “Darkness Falls”, electricity has never proved more unreliable.
Even as a generic Teen Slasher, “They” fails to elicit anything more than some weary sighs. The short running length is responsible for the endless series of critter attacks, which occurs without any sense or logic, and nearly 90% of which leads to nothing. Much, ironically, like “They” as a movie — 90% of it leads to nothing.
Robert Harmon (director) / Brendan Hood (screenplay)
CAST: Laura Regan …. Julia Lund
Marc Blucas …. Paul Loomis
Ethan Embry …. Sam Burnside
Jon Abrahams …. Billy
Dagmara Dominczyk …. Terry Alba