Synopsis:A psychology student finds all her childhood fears and phobias becoming real after a traumatic event.
Films proudly bear "Wes Craven Presents" like it’s a label of honor, but it doesn’t always bode well for the moviegoers who have to sit through them: We’ve been burned by the likes of Dracula 2000 (2000) and Don’t Look Down before. "They" is one such movie, crediting Craven as its executive producer. And though it doesn’t resemble anything close to Craven’s style of horror, it still manages to tap into a primal fear of the dark and has its own aesthetic.
In "They", psychology student Julia Lund’s (Laura Regan - Unbreakable (2000), Dead Silence (2007)) night terrors inexplicably return after one of her closest friends, Billy, commits suicide before her eyes. She and the rest of Billy’s friends all suffered night terrors as kids, but they have something else in common: The creatures that frightened them in their youth are more than figments of an overactive imagination; "they" are coming for them.
What "they" are isn’t spelled out for us: We’re told that our leads were "marked" years ago and now "they" have returned to collect them. There are jump scares aplenty in They, but its most memorable moments are those where Julia gets a glimpse of the world "they" come from a dimension of perpetual darkness, webbed with inky black goo.
These creatures scurry about heard but unseen, vague shapes lurking in shadow, so the special effects look seamless without overstaying their welcome. We never get a clear look at them, and most kills are done offscreen, which is a smart move--it sets They apart from other CGI-laden fright fests (I’m looking at you, Darkness Falls (2003) and Boogeyman (2005)) that give you an obligatory close-up of the monsters that totally sucks the suspense out of the movie. You know that filmmaking adage that goes "Show, don’t tell"? "They" shows you just enough, at least where "they" are concerned.
The problem is, "They" tells you a lot, too. A lack of clear-cut answers would have worked in this movie’s favor, much in the same way it did for Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (2010), which has a similar premise. Sadly, that’s where its mystique ends: Chunks of exposition are shoehorned into dialogue early into the movie. Conversations carry out like the narration. Julia is conveniently given a laundry list of "rules" about how they operate, as if "They" doesn’t trust its own characters to figure things out for themselves. Billy’s college pals, Sam (Ethan Embry) and Terry (Dagmara Dominczyk) are onscreen as little more than monster fodder, but even they are more charismatic than Julia and her boyfriend Paul (Marc Blucas), who take turns being condescending to one another. To get to the few parts worth watching, you have to slog through scenes of Julia bumbling around helplessly--and that’s a lot to ask for if anyone’s going to watch this more than once.
Movies about things that bump in the night is not a novel concept; our childhood fears are fertile ground for this genre. "They" may not be the stuff of nightmares, but it still has something to offer against the many, many other movies like it. And it’s one of the few films that may actually deserve to have Wes Craven’s name on its title.
About They (2002)
Original Title: Wes Craven Presents: They
Runtime: 89 minutes
Genre: Horror, Thriller, Mystery
Total Avg. Votes: 8
Writers: Brendan Hood
Director: Robert Harmon