A man receives threatening phone calls, alluding to an upcoming apocalypse. He begins to prepare himself for an onslaught of evil, but wonders who among him he can trust.
As I began watching They Look Like People, I was immediately taken by how genuine it was. It doesn’t have a lot of the flash of other movies. There were no production companies listed at the beginning, nothing to lead you into the first scene. It just started.
This first scene is simple. It shows a man and a woman laying in bed. It’s simple, but yet, it’s incredibly unsettling. The lighting allows for intense shadows. While the man is illuminated, the woman is merely a silhouette. After a few moments, the woman rolls over in bed to face the man, her face still clouded in shadow. She is a mass of nothingness. With the minimal light, you can see just enough of her body to create an outline of her face. The man lays in bed, looking at her. The camera remains on the silhouette of the woman, and as an audience member, you begin to feel a sense of dread. Something isn’t right.
That opening scene perfectly explains the feeling of They Look Like People. Throughout the film, there are some scary moments, but for the most part, it can be best described as “unsettling”
They Look Like People is the feature film directorial debut for Perry Blackshear. As an independent film producer, it’s also interesting to note that Blackshear had a hand in every aspect of production. Blackshear wrote the script, directed the film, handled the cinematography, edited the final product, and had a hand in producing. It’s an incredible feat that I can relate to. I think that kind of low budget, one-man-crew vibe is part of the charm of this film.
It’s important to note that They Look Like People is a very subtle film. It has a slow burn, and not a lot happens, which may lead to some viewers getting bored. There is a lot of focus on building up the relationships of the characters, rather than scary moments. Honestly, I could probably count on one hand the amount of actually scary or unsettling moments. If I take the time to think about it, it’s probably 6 moments.
Personally, I feel that since the film doesn’t really show a lot of unsettling things, that makes the few it does show all the more memorable. It’s not even all that in-your-face scary. The unsettling moments are still very subtle. There are some facial manipulations, some sound effects that let your imagination do the bulk of the work. It’s very effective.
They Look Like People is most definitely psychological. Normally, I wouldn’t go into much detail about what this means, but I feel that it needs to be addressed. At a point, decently early in the film, the main character Wyatt sees a psychiatrist. When he does this, he reveals that the psychiatrist has diagnosed him with schizophrenia, but he’s still unsure about that diagnosis. This puts mental illness out on the table as a possible explanation for the events occurring.
On that note, I thought They Look Like People was surprisingly respectful. You don’t often see that in this genre. In horror and thriller movies, mental illness is usually a characteristic of the antagonist, but in They Look Like People, the narrative really takes the time to show you the person for who they are. The film takes you on this journey with Wyatt, and I was very pleased by the overall resolution. It’s kind of beautiful.
Overall, They Look Like People has positive reviews from critics. It holds an 89% on Rotten Tomatoes. This might be one of the best gems I’ve uncovered in my 31 Days of Reviews so far this year. I definitely recommend it.