‘They Look Like People’ Film Festival Review
They Look Like People was covered as part of our Tallgrass Film Festival 13 (2015) coverage. For more on our Tallgrass Coverage, check out our ProNerd Tour Page.
Sometimes movies let the audience determine the genre. Films can sometimes find themselves balancing so closely in between these clear-cut descriptions of film that giving a movie a label ends up more difficult. In the case of the independent flick They Look Like People, the audience themselves can determine if the movie is a horror film, sci-fi film, psychological thriller, or just a dark drama. Telling that, though, might also give away what ultimately happens in They Look Like People.
After running from a past of being picked on and not standing on his own, Christian (Evan Dumouchel), who is turning his life around through self motivation and daily trips to the gym, runs into his childhood friend Wyatt (MacLeod Andrews). The two quickly rekindle a longstanding friendship while Christian also gets to know his boss and love interest Mara (Margaret Ying Drake).
As Wyatt remains in town longer, the truth comes out that he is hiding a dark secret. Strongly believing he is a chosen one who is preparing for a war with a mysterious race of creatures taking over humans, Wyatt must convince Christian he is telling the truth and not crazy. When the moment comes to pass, the two must make a decision to stand together for a war that is being waged.
Dubbed as one of the scariest movies in a long time by the volunteer introducing the film, They Look Like People sounds clearly like a modern horror film, something that would be a strong performer in theaters in October. Deep down, it is much more than just shock and horror; in fact there is very little of that. There are definitely moments of concern, scenes not for the weak at heart, but They Look Like People plays out more like a slow-building drama constantly hanging the treat just out of reach, forcing everybody to move forward.
They Look Like People does a fantastic job leaving the audience guessing until the very end. Is Wyatt crazy, or is he one of the few actually preparing for a war that humanity is unaware of? The build up leaves the audience to believe one way and then quickly twists the other direction. Andrews’ strong performance keeps the answer at bay until the very end, in which a climactic sequence takes the movie to a place you may not have expected.
Although other people are in the movie, mostly as background, the screen time falls nearly entirely on Dumouchel, Andrews, and Drake. The three have some strong chemistry, so strong that one might forget they are acting as they just seem to really be hanging out. Early scenes with Dumouchel and Andrews seemed concerning, but when they start playing childhood games and you learn more about their connection, awkward behaviors completely make sense. Dumouchel seems very awkward throughout, and as the history of this bullied-person-building-self-esteem character unravels, it is clear he does a fantastic job as Christian.
The movie runs very well. Production seemed light, and even though it showed that at times, you could hardly believe this wasn’t a big production. The team was clearly comfortable with their roles and each other, as no aspect of They Look Like People’s production appears to lag behind.
My single complaint with the cut of the film could be completely unjustified if the film isn’t technically finished. The audio is clearly not remastered and that can distract the audience sometimes from what is really important on the screen. In nearly all films, the audio is a combination of recording on location and in a studio. In the case of They Look Like People, it is very clear which audio is causing some scenes to stick out like a sore thumb. This in no way takes away from what the production team completed, as getting an audio track remastered is usually a third party job, done at the very last possible moment, and can be somewhat expensive.
With my rant on audio wrapped, I will state again that the production quality of the movie was strong and the team did a great job delivering a well edited, well filmed, and well acted movie that flowed exactly how something like this should.
Overall, I still can’t pinpoint if I would call They Look Like People a horror, sci-fi thriller, or psychological twist. Then again, maybe I can and I don’t want to tell you for fear of giving it away. The movie has a clear ending with a possible twist or climax some saw coming, either giving people the answer they wanted in the end or not. The easiest way to find out if it’s the answer you wanted is to watch it–something I highly recommend you do.