Halloween Countdown, Day 17: They Look Like People

They Look Like People (2015)

A lot of horror films introduce characters with a kind of cinematic shorthand: disheveled, bearded, worn white tee shirt = sketchy but sympathetic. Skinny jeans, self-empowerment in the headphones, checks his flex in the gym mirror = douchebag.

Generally it happens so the film can devote less time to character development and jump right into the carnage, but They Look Like People writer/director Perry Blackshear has other aims in mind.

Christian (Evan Dumouchel) is killing it. He’s benching 250 now, looks mussed but handsome as he excels at work, and he’s even gotten up the nerve to ask out his smokin’ hot boss. On his way home from work to change for that date he runs into his best friend from childhood, Wyatt (MacLeod Andrews), who’s looking a little worse for wear. Christian doesn’t care. With just a second’s reluctance, Christian invites him in – to his apartment, his date, and his life.

But there is something seriously wrong with Wyatt.

Blackshear’s film nimbly treads the same ground as the wonderful Frailty and the damn near perfect Take Shelter in that he uses sympathetic characters and realistic situations to blur the line between mental illness and the supernatural.

Wyatt believes there is a coming demonic war and he’s gone to rescue his one true friend. Andrews is sweetly convincing as the shell shocked young man unsure as to whether his head is full of bad wiring, or whether his ex-fiance has demon fever.

The real star here, though, is Dumouchel, whose character arc shames you for your immediate assessment. Blackshear examines love – true, lifelong friendship – in a way that has maybe never been explored as authentically in a horror film before. It’s this genuineness, this abiding tenderness Christian and Wyatt have for each other, that makes the film so moving and, simultaneously, so deeply scary.

They Look Like People can only barely be considered a horror film. It lacks the mean-spiritedness generally associated with the genre and replaces it with something both beautiful and terrifying. Whatever the genre, though, Blackshear’s film is a resounding success.

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