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They (2002)

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Plot Summary:
"After witnessing a horrific and traumatic event, Julia Lund (Laura Regan), a graduate student in psychology, gradually comes to the realization that everything which scared her as a child could be real. And what's worse, it might be coming back to get her."

Review by
Ryan McDonald
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Review Date: 04 March 2014 My Rating: out of 5


Jon Abrahams plays a troubled young man who hasn’t recovered from a monstrous incident some 15 or so years ago. He now claims to childhood friend Laura Regan that ‘They’ are back and trying to kill him. Not long after this, Abrahams has killed himself. Regan dismisses Abrahams behaviour as that of an unstable mind, but not only does she come across two other people (Ethan Embry and Dagmar Dominiczyk) undergoing similarly nightmarish experiences, but soon Regan herself is revisited by night terrors so long-ago buried that she had forgotten them. But now indeed it appears these childhood fears have come back and aren’t playing around. Jay Brazeau plays Regan’s childhood shrink whom she now looks to for help as an adult, and Marc Blucas is her trying-to-understand boyfriend.

This rather disappointing ‘Wes Craven Presents’ horror flick from 2002 seems to get a bad rap, even from its credited screenwriter Brendan Hood. Hood (who also scripted the botched “The Deaths of Ian Stone”) wrote the original screenplay, but all that remains of it is his original idea. The rest of his script was chopped out by the producers and re-written by up to 10 other people (!), according to IMDb. I’ve heard Hood’s original script was much, much better than what ended up on the screen. Directed by Robert Harmon (who basically never reached the heights of his early flick “The Hitcher” ever again), the film certainly isn’t very good, but unlike its reputation, I don’t think it’s a total write-off. It’s a good-looking and well-directed...version of something you feel like you’ve seen a thousand times before. “Stephen King’s IT” and the “Nightmare on Elm Street” series spring immediately to mind here, and there’s really not much going on here outside of the visuals and direction. Even then, the monster is too low-rent “Jeepers Creepers” for my liking, not to mention it’s not particularly essentially to the film. Ethan Embry gets better as the film goes along and he starts bugging out, but for the most part he and Dagmar Dominiczyk have “Dream Warriors” written all over them. It should’ve been called “Night Terrors”, but that title was obviously already taken (by an even worse film).

The stormy weather and cool cinematography by Rene Ohashi combine to make one very stylish-looking, doom-laden film full of unsettling atmosphere and it gets quite nerve-wracking early on before the clichés become simply too much. Still, the rather dour and serious tone helps set this thing apart from the other, more snarky and flippant horror films of the late 90s/early 00s, and for a while it’s pretty watchable. Ohashi’s use of shadows, meanwhile, is very effective throughout. Less effective is one too many ‘boo!’ moment, where someone is startled by thunder or a phone ringing.

The film has admirable elements, but is ultimately let down by clichés. Laura Regan is really quite impressive under the circumstances, though her obvious no-nudity clause and an overabundance of shower scenes and sex scenes (which wouldn’t be at all annoying if she nuded up) frustrate as well.

It really is an uneven mess of a film. Good-looking and not badly performed, but far too formulaic and familiar. Oh well, at least you can always watch “Nightmare on Elm St. 3: Dream Warriors”, “IT”, or “The Hitcher” again.

Reviewer: Phil Davies Brown @horrorasylum
Location:Scotland, UK
Review Date: 18 January 2004 My Rating: out of 5

Director Robert Harmon's 2002 film came out of nowhere and quickly crawled back there after about a week in my local multiplex.

The film then had an unusually long hiatus by today's standards before receiving a video and DVD release, and it's a shame as this had a lot of potential.

Echoing 'Darkness Falls', the film opens with a young boy being terrorised at night by monsters in his closet and under his bed.

We then jump ahead 19 years and are introduced to grad student Julia Lund (Laura Regan) who studies psychology.

We soon discover that Julia and Billy (the young boy featured in the opening sequence, who is now in his 20's) have been friends since they were children, as they both suffered from extreme night terror's, following tragic events in their childhood.

A new tradgedy occurs and Julia begins to suffer from a new bout of night terrors, and that's when 'They' come back.

It has been well publicised in genre circles that the film had a troubled production (at least 10 writer's worked on the script, and the finished product bears almost no resemblance to the original idea by the writer) but it is nonetheless watchable.

The cast are excellent and the aesthetics are good too. Robert Harmon knows how to build tension, and does, but the script never really allows him to fully capitalize on his potential.

Whilst the film exists in many different versions, each with alternate openings and endings as well as additional scenes, the DVD is bare bones and we are only treated to the trailer and the original ending, which is not that different to the current one.

The film had a lot of potential, but I suspect that it suffered from a lot of 'studio involvement'. Hopefully, the just announced sequel will be able to make up for some of this film's problems. Worth a watch but unfortunately, 'Darkness Falls' got all the publicity and was too much competition. Hopefully, this will find an audience over the years and become a cult film.

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