Directed by Robert Harmon
Produced by Scott Kroopf & Tom Engelman
Written by Brendan William Hood
Director of Photography Rene Ohashi
Music by Ella Cmiral
Cast: Laura Regan, Marc Blucas & Ethan Embry
2002/90 mins/Color/5.1 DD
2.35:1 anamorphic/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from the Buena Vista Home Entertainment DVD
Over the past decade, there have been several incidences where two films with very similar premises were released in the same time period. We've had VOLCANO vs. DANTE'S PEAK, ANTZ vs. A BUG'S LIFE, ARMAGEDDON vs. DEEP IMPACT, and MONSTERS INC. vs SHREK. Typically, the public was aware of the film's similarities as this was made a part of the hype. Yet, when I sat down to watch the newly released DVD of WES CRAVEN PRESENTS THEY, I had no idea that it shared many traits with another recent horror entry.
Julia Lund is a well adjusted psychology student, who is going for her doctorate. She is bright, energetic, and in love with her boyfriend, Paul (Marc Blucas from TV's BUFFY, THE VAMPIRE SLAYER). But, Julia's life begins to spiral out of control when she meets with her childhood friend Billy (Jon Abrahams). Billy tells Julia that he's been having severe nightmares, known as night terrors, and that he's convinced that someone or something is out to get him. Julia then meets two of Billy's friends, Sam (Ethan Embry) and Terry (Dagmara Dominczyk), who have also experienced extreme nightmares. Juila confesses to them that she had night terrors as a child (that's why she bonded with Billy), but had put that behind her. However, Julia once again begins to have night terrors, and like Billy, starts to feel as if she's being stalked by something -- something that dwells in the darkness.
Those of you who have seen THEY and DARKNESS FALLS know that the two movies are very similar. Both focuses on childhood terrors, and both have antagonists that can only attack in the darkness. As stated above, I wasn't really aware that THEY contained this premise, and I was very surprised by the similarities. That being said, the two films are actually quite different, although, truth be told, each is disappointing in its own way. The problem with THEY is that the film is just as vague as its title. We learn very little of who "They" are or what they want from these individuals who suffer from night terrors. The movie simply reaches a point where we, the audience, simply accept the fact that the characters are being pursued by monsters (?) that can't come into the light. Add this to the fact that we never get a good look at the CGI creatures, and you've got one ambiguous film. This plot device becomes an excuse to put the characters into ridiculously dark and vacant spaces. Forget the fact that "they" can supposedly disrupt electricity, thus causing darkness, the victims in THEY always manage to put themselves in incredibly dark places where they are all alone. (How do they do that? I never get the chance to be alone!) So, the first half of the film sets up a somewhat interesting premise involving dream-monsters, but the second-half is simply an exercise in "who's going to die next?" It's good to see director Robert Harmon (THE HITCHER) working in the genre again, as he does manage to create some tension and stages some creepy scenes, but the script by newcomer Brendan William Hood simply can't find its way into the light.
THEY comes to DVD courtesy of Buena Vista Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 2:35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. Let me tell you, this must be a good transfer, as the bulk of the film takes place in darkness or shadow, even the daytime scenes, and the action is always visible here. The image is clear, and there is surprisingly little grain for a film that is so dark. There is some blurring and artifacting at times, but these defects are infrequent. The film's palette is very monochromatic, but the occasional glimpses of color look good. The DVD offers a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track that sounds fine. The film has an interesting sound design, and the 5.1 track really emphasizes this, as we are treated to the various sound of "They" scurrying around. These sounds fill the room and the subwoofer is put to good use as well.
The only extra on the DVD is an alternate ending. The ending to to final cut doesn't really work, and frankly, neither does this alternate ending. The alternate ending feels like a cop-out, while the final-cut ending is reminiscent of POLTERGEIST II, where we were promised a glimpse of "The Other Side" to find that is was only a special effect.
This Film Features:
Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2003. ©