While I enjoyed writing up my experience of the V/H/S trilogy and was looking forward to watching my first new horror movies in nearly a month, I wasn’t quite ready to play another round of Netflix Roulette… I need a bit of a palate cleanser. Luckily, while on my unplanned hiatus I received a few messages from friends and readers about movies I should seek out. I decided to go with a recommendation from one of the people I trust the most when it comes to horror movies. Specifically, she sent a simple text last week that read “You should watch They Look Like People when you get back to your blog”. It was clearly a recommendation (otherwise, why would she have texted me about it), but I appreciate that there weren’t any adjectives or descriptions of the movie included in her text. Sometimes, there are movies that need to be experienced without any expectations… this is one of those movies. Now, here’s where I do the exact opposite of my friend… what follows will be a write-up. Though completely spoiler free, I will discuss tones, themes, and my feeling, which can impact expectations. Therefore, I suggest that if you’re at all interested in this movie you watch it first and then read my write-up.
So, I assume you’ve all watched the movie… here are my thoughts (again, no spoilers, because, I also assume some of you ignored my recommendation (your loss)). I don’t want to say too much about the plot… not just because I want to avoid spoilers, but because the overall plot is fairly light… in an effective way (get used to seeing me drive the word “effective” (*ding*) into the ground in this write-up). Basically, this movie follows two high-school friends, now in their late twenties (maybe… I’m bad with guessing age) who (presumably) haven’t seen each other since graduation. They have both changed in very different ways, but are trying to reestablish their friendship. Ok, so, that summary may be a bit of a misdirect and doesn’t sound much like a horror movie, but I honestly believe that’s the core of the film and what makes it so effective (*ding* *ding*).
I’m not sure where to begin my discussion… this movie resonated with me and I’m still a bit raw (in a wonderful way). So, I apologize if this is a bit scattershot. The filmmaker (writer/director/cinematographer/editor Perry Blackshear (I decided to include all four hats to demonstrate that this is almost completely one man’s vision and it truly shows in what’s on the screen) demonstrates an awareness of the genre he is playing in. This self-awareness is not used for humor (though, there is actually quite a bit of humor in the film) but rather to set the audience up. His use of the jump-scare-expectation is masterful and made me very tense on several occasions. In fact, one happened right out of the gate. Similarly, Blackshear had me questioning things as I tend to do with movies of this type… not in a confused way, but from an expectation of disappointment. For example, in my notes, (from about halfway through the movie) I wrote “I’m worried that the film won’t answer anything… I’m guessing it’s going to have one of those you-decided-for-yourself endings” and “oot quite sure about the intercutting of self-help voice-overs”. I was getting ready for the movie to take the “artsy” approach… and, while this movie is artful it is not pretentiously artsy (at least in my opinion, though, I could see people fighting me on that). You can see my journey, since in my notes I followed up both of these early comments with “oh, never mind, I get it now… love it!”. I was particularly impressed with how the filmmaker intercut separate scenes of the two leads (more on them shortly) preparing for different trials they were about to go through. This was an effective (*ding* *ding* *ding*) way of building the tension and reminding the viewer that everything is not okay… no matter how much they both try to pretend that it is.
I can’t finish my write-up without talking about the leads of this movie and how they are handled by the filmmaker. MacLeod Andrews and Evan Dumouchel elevate this movie… a great deal is asked of them by Blackshear and they deliver. So much of this movie happens in between the talking moments and therefore, it requires the leads to tell us what is happening just through facial expressions… they are masterful at this. They also do an amazing job of making both characters likeable and people you want to root for, even though, as the film progresses it becomes difficult to root for both at the same time… yet somehow, we, as viewers, do. They are also both extremely charming and vulnerable in a way that makes us believe they are friends in real life (the scene with them rekindling their friendship over a bottle of liquor is spot on). The awkwardness between the two old friends that slowly evolves into old patterns feels real. I guess that’s the thing about this movie… the reason it is so enjoyable while also being so tense at times is that it feels so lovingly and uncomfortably real.
Blackshear effectively (*ding* *ding* *ding* *ding*) balances anticipation, dread, tension, and release in a way that makes this movie fly by while at the same time achieving a slow burn. I am stunned by this… this movie elicited a level of tension in me that I have felt in a long, long, long time.
Effective! (*ding* *ding* *ding* *ding* *ding*)