Friday, October 7, 2016

31 Days of Horror- Day 7: They Look Like People (2016)

(dir. Perry Blackshear)

While staying in New York with an old friend, a man hears a voice in his head that convinces him the world is being taken over by demons disguised as humans.

They Look Like People is constantly unnerving, and yet it’s horror is understated, primarily based on what we don’t see and punctuated by moments of heartbreaking humanity based on the goodness of human beings. The horror then stems from the possibility that this goodness is an illusion, a performance put on by sinister forces that only look like people. But the title of the film works both ways when we consider the plight of our lead character Wyatt, and his secret collection of weapons, and plans to kill those creatures. As the film goes on and we begin to doubt Wyatt’s conviction, we realize that we may not be watching the story of a demon hunter but of a possible serial killer in the making. Serial killers don’t look like the monsters horror movies have propagated, they look like people, as ordinary and unseen as the faces we pass daily. What’s scary is that we sympathize with Wyatt, we like him, and understand that these possible voices in his head are not the result of evil but of his own potential mental illness that has taken away his ability to distinguish fantasy from reality.

Macleod Andrews’ performance as Wyatt is filled with quiet dignity, one at odds with the more outgoing personality of his friend Christian, whose charismatic performance by Evan Dumouchel adds a certain lightness that only creates more unease in the longrun. Both Wyatt and Christian put on outward personas to disguise their true selves, and the film’s examination of mental illness leaves them both revealed by the end of the film, an end that I’d imagine won’t be what many are expecting. But the beauty and horror of They Look Like People, is that is that it ultimately is about people, stripped down to look like exactly what they are.

Scare Factor: 4/5 A cross between Frailty and Take ShelterThey Look Like People builds tensions masterfully, leaving most of the horror to exist in expertly placed sound design. This is of the finest dramatic horror films in recent years, proof that horror can still be at its most creative when it’s operating on a miniscule budget and focused on interpersonal relationships in confined spaces.

*Available to watch on Netflix Instant

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