Dimension Films // 2002 // 90 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // June 27th, 2003
First comes the warning.
Then comes the mark.
Then comes the terror.
Remember when you were a kid and you thought there were monsters in your closet? What if that was actually true? And what if they came back to collect you years after childhood ended? This problematic idea plagues Julia Lund (Laura Regan, Unbreakable) as she muddles her way through school as a psychology student. After witnessing Billy (Jon Abrahams, Scary Movie), a childhood friend, kill himself in a local restaurant, Julia begins to see shadows on the wall and creatures in the corners...and they don't look friendly. She discusses these strange happenings with Terry (Dagmara Dominczyk, Rock Star) and Paul (Ethan Embry, Empire Records), two of Billy's friends who inform her that they've each got a small wound (or mark) that matches up exactly with what they fear -- the monsters from their youth have returned to bring them "home." Although her beefy boyfriend (Marc Blucas, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and therapist think she's going off the deep end, Julia knows that something is not right in her world. And when these creepy, crawly creatures come out of the shadows the true terror will begin!
Hovering somewhere just above limbo, They is neither here nor there -- it's a movie that had potential (it could have been a cool R-rated version of Monsters, Inc.), yet squanders it on too many boring characters and not enough drooling beasties. I liked the idea of monsters coming back to reclaim scared children who've grown into adulthood; unfortunately for horror fans, we're never given a fair glimpse at the titular creatures. Lurking in shadows and hidden by darkly created CGI, "they" are little more than green looking spider-things that make squishy, crunchy sounds through 5.1 speakers. Director Robert Harmon (the upcoming Highwaymen) is able to wring some suspense out of various scenes, though Brandon Hood's screenplay (his first) lingers too long in exposition and not nearly long enough in action or excitement. What's a guy gotta do to get some flying entrails on the screen? Which brings me to another point: They is rated PG-13, the equivalent to the kiss of death. I'm always leery of any horror movie not rated R since that usually means the scares and gore are vastly downplayed. The actors all appear to have been wrangled from some Gap ad, each displaying minimal discernable characteristics and maximum sex appeal. Doe-eyed Laura Regan slinks around the screen in one of the worst performances this side of Jar Jar Binks -- in one scene she freaks out in a bathroom and you can practically hear the Razzie Awards committee tallying up their votes. The only standout is Ethan Embry as a chain smoking painter, an actor who deserves much better than this inconsequential vehicle. Although it sounds like I'm being overly harsh on They, I will admit that it's watchable, if disposable, stuff. The first ten minutes generate real scares, and the conclusion, while certainly not "one of the most terrifying endings in recent memory" (as the DVD case touts), does have an eerie ring to it. It's momentarily scary stuff -- I only wish the rest of the film had known how to do what those first few minutes did.
(FYI: The film's full title is Wes Craven Presents They. However, I haven't been able to spot any discernable proof that Craven had any hand in the film's conception or production. If that's the case, the dang thing could have been titled Carrot Top Presents They and it wouldn't have made a lick of difference.)
They is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Seeing as this film was produced just a short year ago, it's no surprise to find this transfer in excellent shape. Most of the movie is seeped in darkness and not much color (save for some illuminatingly harsh florescent lights). What color patterns and flesh tones are available are solid and well defined. I noticed no edge enhancement, haloing, or dirt during the viewing -- in other words, this is a fine effort by Buena Vista. The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English. If nothing else, They features some pretty cool surround sounds and directional effects from all sides. There are a lot of gooey, squishy sounds to be heard on this mix, making for a very audibly involving experience. Also included on this disc are English subtitles.
Because They didn't burn up the box office upon its initial release, it's no surprise to find this disc void of substantial extra features. Aside of a few trailers for various Buena Vista titles (Dracula II: Ascension, Below, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, et cetera), They also includes an very different alternate ending (presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen) reminiscent of The Usual Suspects.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Dimension Films
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Theatrical Trailers
* Alternate Ending