They (15)

Every child has, at some time, cowered beneath the bed sheets as some unspeakable horror watched from the closet, ready to pounce whenever the parents’ backs were turned.

Of course the child’s cry of ‘They are coming to get me’ is always soothed by a mother’s words or the strong reliable figure of a father. ‘They’ are driven back into darkness and, as the child grows older, ‘they’ rarely creep from the shadows again.

But what if children can see what adults cannot? And what if their terrified cries in the night are not the product of night terrors or an over-productive imagination? And what if those dread nocturnal visitations return to haunt them as adults…?

Such is the intriguing premise of They, in which the suppressed horrors of childhood return to turn four adults’ lives into waking nightmares. In this partly successful shocker ‘they’ affect electrical items and cause babies and small children to cry. For Julia Lund (Laura Regan) life becomes a throwback to a frightening period when unimaginable beings lurked in dark corners and the only respite was to expel them through sessions with a shrink.

Things take a scary turn when each adult affected by the night terrors find wounds, like stigmata, reappearing on their bodies – a reminder of long-forgotten nightmares from decades before. When the wounds begin to bleed and fail to heal, something awful is about to happen.

In the hands of director Robert (The Hitcher) Harmon They takes a simple concept – one that has been considered before in movies like Cat’s Eye and Poltergeist, and the cult TV series Tales from the Darkside – and creates from it an object lesson in chills. It even borrows from classics of the past – principally the moment when Terry (Dagmara Dominczyk), swimming in a pool, is stalked by a mysterious thing. It’s a straight lift from Jacques Tourneur’s 1942 thriller Cat People.

While it tries hard They is occasionally cliched, not least when characters follow strange sounds and find themselves face-to-face with the film’s creepy creatures. Dialogue is frequently banal but Regan, Dominczyk and Marc Blucas, from TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, make the best of it by playing it straight. There are no laughs in They.

The real joy in They is Laura Regan, a slimmer, more fragile version of Bridget Fonda and Monica Potter. Seen recently in My Little Eye, she appears to be making a name for herself in unsettling horror flicks. She is by far the best element of They and is a face to watch.

Soaked in paranoia and neurosis, They preys on every child’s fear of the dark and the unknown things that lurk in the shadows. After watching this parents everywhere might find themselves taking more notice of what their children cry out in the dark…

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