They (2002)

Are you afraid of the dark? You should be

Writer: Brendan Hood
Director: Robert Harman

Take a thunderstorm, a scared six year old boy and a bedroom full of shadows. Mix together with some creepy direction and you get the excellent start to They. It’s unfortunate that the rest of the film doesn’t live up to the promise of the first scene.

The bulk of the film takes place some 19 years after that thunderstorm. Julia, the main character, is a student studying for a Masters in psychology. One evening she receives a call from her friend Billy. Billy was that scared young boy and is now a disturbed young man. He believes that “They” are after him. Who “They” are he doesn’t know but “They”, he says, are afraid of the light – so the prospect of city-wide power cuts has him worried.

Julia is understandably sceptical, however she becomes more interested after meeting two of Billy’s other friends. In addition she has also begins to have some rather unpleasant experiences herself.

The question, of course, is whether “They” really exist or whether this is all delusion brought on by stress. The duality is kept going for a surprisingly long time whilst the excellent direction by Harman builds some very atmospheric scenes. The story is hardly original but it’s nicely spun. ‘They’ really is very tense and creepy at times, enhanced by things in the shadows that are more imagined than seen. It’s exactly the sort of film I should love.

Unfortunately the direction is the best thing about the film and it’s not enough. One major problem is the ending. I know I normally complain about films that go on too long but ‘They’ goes way too far in the other direction. I don’t mind some questions being left open but here the ending was simply unsatisfying.

The biggest problem though is the acting. With two honourable exceptions – Billy (Jon Abrahams) and his friend Sam (Ethan Embry) it stinks. Unfortunately Billy and Sam get very little screen time. The main characters are Julia and her boyfriend Paul. Julia (Laura Regan) is described in the script as “passionate and moody” yet Regan makes her flat and lifeless (except when she’s screaming!). It’s difficult to become emotionally attached to her – which may make for a good shrink but makes a very poor central character.

As for Paul. Well, he’s played by Marc Lucas who is perhaps best known for giving us Riley in ”Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. Paul is, unfortunately, every bit as dull and pointless as was Riley.

So the end result is an interesting set up and some superb direction wasted on an inadequately developed story, dull characters and poor acting.