Suspecting that people are transforming into malevolent shape-shifters, Wyatt flees to New York City to seek out his estranged childhood friend Christian. As the mysterious horrors close in on Wyatt, he questions whether to protect his only friend from an impending war, or from himself. A genre-bending story about love, loyalty and living nightmares.
Inspired by such films as Donnie Darko and Take Shelter, Perry Blackshear’s They Look Like People is an unsettling insight into mental illness told through loyalty and friendship. From the outset it is clear that this ‘psychological bromance’ has much more going on under the surface and over the course of the film Blackshear tells an unforgettable story that will hold you in a vice-tight grip.This film may be small-scale, taking place in a number of limited locations (an apartment, a basement, an office and the street outside) but that is all that is needed. What Blackshear has crafted with They Look Like People is outstanding. By rolling back and just focusing on the relationship between two people he constructs a film where an audience can really connect with the characters at its heart. So when the more intense moments of horror happen I found myself caring about what would happen next and I think this is the charm of the film.Speaking of which, the performances from MacLeod Andrews and Evan Dumouchel are incredibly sound and they both do a great job to bring the script to life. Andrews plays Wyatt and he handles his character beautifully and delivers his role with tact and a deep-rooted sense of paranoia. Dumouchel plays his friend Christian, a working man with his own demons, his performance is just as great and provides a stark contrast to Andrews’. Together they share such chemistry on screen that it feels completely real.
Margaret Ying Drake also stars in the film as Mara, a potential love interest for Christian. Her character has to deal with her attraction to Christian whilst doing her best to help where she can when Wyatt’s world starts to crumble around him. She brings warmth to the role and her character is effortlessly charming. She provides excellent support to an already incredible cast.
It is difficult to call They Look Like People a strict horror film on account that it is not formulaic and certainly doesn’t rely on horror tropes. Instead it shares similarities with Take Shelter in that it is a slow-paced and thought provoking thriller which serves as a fascinating character study. In the same way that I was with The Battery and Spring, I found myself slowly drawn into the story because of how the film captured my attention and I am proud to say that They Look Like People is just as riveting.
This said, it is clear that this film will not suit everyone’s taste and that’s okay. I think Blackshear has done a remarkable job with this film. Together with his crew he has created a world that feels credible and through careful character development and solid performances I fell in love with his harrowing look at mental instability. So if you’re a fan of films like Take Shelter or even The Babadook I think you will really get a kick out of They Look Like People in the same way that I did.
Words: Jon Dickinson (@marvelguy)