I fired up They Look Like People on Netflix based purely on that title. I had no idea what it was about, but that is one creepy ass name for a movie right there. I figured it would be an Invasion of the Body Snatchers style scenario, with aliens taking over people’s bodies like the assholes that they are. Nope. It is not that at all.
Wyatt meets up with his friend Christian after several years and is invited to stay at his house for a while. The two catch-up, falling easily back into the rhythms of their friendship, playing the same games they used to, etc. Christian is also dealing with a lot of insecurities, many centered around Mara, a supervisor at his work that he has only recently gotten the courage up to ask out. Wyatt meanwhile, is dealing with his own issues. These issues are a little different in that he is receiving phone calls on a busted cell phone where different distorted voices are continuously telling him that demons posing as humans are soon going to begin a war on humanity and that Wyatt does not have a whole lot of time to brace himself for the inevitable apocalypse. You can decide whose problems are worse.
They Look Like People clearly is running on a shoe string budget. Outside of the three leads, there are hardly any other characters in the movie, with a few showing up for many one scene before they are gone. Generally, most of the action is kept to a handful of locations as well, with Christian’s home being the primary area. As a result, this can’t be an epic showdown between humans and demons. Instead everything is played very minimally, with nearly all of the “horror” happening in shadows or hidden away from direct view. It goes by the classic notion that horror is scarier when it’s left to the imagination, and for the most part it works here.
The strong characters and performances carry the movie, especially the friendship between Christian and Wyatt. Wyatt’s character is treated well here. He is never depicted as a crazy or unhinged person. He clearly believes the voices that are calling him, but he never lashes out or becomes violent. It makes it harder to gauge whether or not there truly are demons lurking around out there, or if it’s all in his head. Christian remains supportive throughout, even once he is let in on Wyatt’s situation. You keep waiting for the almost inevitable “You’re crazy man! There aren’t any demons out there!” face-off but it never comes. So kudos to the movie for never playing into the clichés I was constantly expecting it to bust out.
This is definitely more of a suspenseful drama than a horror movie. Oh there are definitely tense moments, with the finale being the most shining example, but this is largely built around characters and an over growing sense of dread. I didn’t realize this is actually the first feature film for writer/director Perry Blackshear and it’s one hell of a debut. He makes the absolute most of the resources he has, with terrific use of staging and sound, and makes me really hope some major studio is paying attention to whip a decent budget at him to see what he is capable of.
They Look Like People is a well-made and low-key thriller that I feel is/probably already has been hurt by people’s expectations. This isn’t going to deliver thrills and scares, but instead an effective story with well-realized characters at its core. So long as you are prepared for the deliberate pace, this is an easy recommendation.