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MPAA Rating: PG-13 (For Terror/Violence, Sexual Content and Language)
Running Time: 90 minutes
Starring: Laura Regan, Marc Blucas, Ethan Embry, Dagmara Dominczyk
Written by: Brendan William Hood
Directed by: Robert Harmon
Retail Price: $29.99
Features: Alternate Ending
Specs: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selections (20 Scenes)
Released: June 10th, 2003
"Well, you know, he was taking Prozac. I guess it didn't work."
Julia Lund (Laura Regan) is a psychology graduate student trying to cope with a normal life. But things aren't so normal when it turns out her childhood night terrors weren't so fake after all and hinted at something much more real. Things start to get creepy when her childhood friend, Billy (Jon Abrahams), can't deal with similar night terrors and ends up killing himself. From there, Julia meets two of Billy's friends at his funeral, Sam and Terry (Ethan Embry and Dagmara Domincyzk), who have suffered similar dreams and fears. Julia realizes that they must battle uh... "They."
"They" opened in November 2002 and quickly fizzled at the box office (not even the "Wes Craven Presents" portion before the title could help it). Reviews were surprisingly mixed - some critics hated it and others did enjoy it. I'd fall somewhere in the middle. I really didn't take this movie seriously going in as a legit horror film, and I still don't since I still think this movie was pretty much made to make money out of horror films. But I will say that I was quite surprised in how much I enjoyed this movie. It's nothing spectacular, but for 90 minutes, you could do worse.
Is this movie scary? Personally, I didn't think so - I saw a lot of the "scary" moments coming and they weren't really anything new or exciting. Nonetheless, the film does an admirable job building up its tension and I could definitely see audiences get freaked out at some parts. There's some "is-it-real-or-is-it-not" imagery which is fun, but in short, the movie is really compelling - even if you know where it's going to go. Creating something compelling isn't always easy, especially in a horror film, but I was entertained throughout most of this film and that does count for a lot.
Even though I kept wanting to know what would happen next and what the filmmakers would try to pull, it doesn't mean what they pulled out wasn't so great. The movie can be a bit dull at times and often feel like filler. What do I mean by filler? Well, some of the characters try to gain some deeper insights and they go nowhere. Tension building shots don't always go places either. Characters further "developing" themselves also don't always go places. Speaking of the characters, there are interesting parts to them, but they're prett predictable as far as personalities and action. And the dialogue is usually pretty corny, but I guess you'd expect that from this type of movie. So who's to credit/blame for all of this? If you ask the WGA, that'd be first time scribe Brendan William Hood. But I recently read somewhere that he actually only came up with the premise as the producers didn't dig his original screenplay, and up to 10 other writers wrote this movie. To answer the question: who knows.
I actually enjoyed the directing a good deal. The man behind "The Hitcher," Robert Harmon, helmed "They" and he does a pretty good job. He sets the characters up just enough without going overboard, yet still makes things pretty mysterious and definitely creates a strong ambiance the film follows through with pretty well. I personally liked his quick cuts and how he usually took several shots of areas, all for seemingly anticipation purposes. He paces the film well too. On a different note, I enjoyed Elia Cmiral's haunting score. It did help the film a bit.
The acting in the movie is pretty strong. Jon Abrahams is quite good in his too brief appearence, while Ethan Embry (I actually like him quite a lot and I'm glad he's been back on the acting scene) and Dagmara Domincyzk are really good in their supporting roles and actually make the movie seem a little less cheesy. Still, much of the movie's shoulder's rest on Laura Regan as the film's heroine. I actually liked her quite a lot and definitely think she has a future as a leading lady. She's done a little work before this (most notable as the younger Robin Wright Penn in "Unbreakable,") but she's quite natural in the role and there isn't anything fake about her - hopefully we'll hear more from her in the future. The only actor in the movie I didn't like was Marc Blucas. He's okay, but I didn't think he had any chemistry with Regan and he comes off a bit grating.
In the end, I enjoyed "They." It's not perfect, but for a quick horror flick, it definitely entertains and is pretty fun. As long as you don't go in expecting a top-notch horror film with incredibly strong production values, you might be pleasantly surprised at what feels like a B-movie/direct-to-video flick has to offer. I wouldn't be surprised if Miramax released a "They 2" as a direct-to-video title... it's been done with their other horror/sci-fi titles, so who knows.
This 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is pretty inconsistent, but not perfect. The exterior scenes look quite crisp, fresh and seem to burst with an admirable amount of life. The interior, albeit darker scenes, do look pretty cruddy most of the time. They're rather grainy, detail is not so refined and the image appears a bit murky. Overall, fleshtones are decent and color saturation looks pretty good, but it's nothing great. Edge enhancement is appears but it is pretty slight. The transfer also has some scratches, dirt pieces and plenty of blemishes to go around. The film was shot on a pretty low budget (or so it seems) so some of this stuff is bound to happen, but I think it could have been better.
The English Dolby Digital 5.1 fits the film just fine and can work to great effect. The film does create its own respectable ambiance that is filled with some pretty strong surrounds. One such case is the opening scene that just might chill some of you. The rain in the background sounds great, the shadow figure tingling, the door creaking and the boy being dragged across the floor sound pretty superb. As for the rest of the movie, the surrounds are pretty nifty and definitely do pack some nice punches as well as putting you in the film more. The more "scary" sequences use the rears pretty well to bring tension and shock moments, dialogue is clear and easy to hear and does not get cluttered while the music, be it background music (like in the bar scene toward the beginning) or the score from Elia Cmiral fill the speakers nicely and adds to the overall mood of the movie. Subwoofer use is good too. You've probably heard better, but given this movie's production values and what it's trying to do, it's pretty impressive. Also included are English subtitles and English closed captions.
Not much. You actually get a high quality Alternate Ending in anamorphic widescreen (score!) and Dolby Surround. The ending is a bit intense, and no reason is given why the one in the movie is used over this one, but it's cool to have and is entertaining - it's fully edited and looks great (arguably better than the actual film's transfer). Personally, I LOVE this ending over the original - it provides an excellent twist and makes you question the film as a whole. It's definitely more effective. Oh, and I read there was a THIRD ending to this movie - why this isn't on the DVD is beyond me. Also included are some Sneak Peeks for other Buena Vista DVD titles: "Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind," "Below," "Invincible," "Equilibrium" and another "Wes Craven Presents" feature - "Dracula II: Ascension."
You're either going to love "They" or hate it. If you're a horror fan who enjoys some cheap, crappy fun and don't go in expecting anything truly scary or a horror classic you'll be fine. If you're not into horror or can't stand these kind of horror flicks with a run-of-the-mill premise, familiar characters and rising action that is mostly tedious filler... then you probably won't like it. Still, the DVD has a decent transfer and a strong Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. The extras are sparse and the retail price is high. If you're curious then rent it, otherwise, if you loved this movie then rush out and buy it.