The best thing you’ll see all week: They Look Like People

, | Movie reviews

The creepiness factor with They Look Like People starts with the name. Who looks like people? They? Who are they? If they only look like people, what do they really look like? Let your imagination run with it. Rest assured your questions will be answered in this chilling slow burn version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers — either one — with a payoff every bit as effective and unexpected.

There’s a whole contingency of late-night call-in show wackos who believe in lizard people disguised as humans for some insidious plot. They’re crazy, right? Where’s the line that separates being ill, being imaginative, and actually being right? As the old saying goes, it’s not paranoia if they’re actually out to get you. How much can you trust the voices in your head, whether they’re affirmation tapes or messages heard on a phone that might not even work? These are the ideas that They Look Like People writer and director Perry Blackshears explores with his cast. Evan Dumouchel as a Ray Liotta crossed with Mark Duplass leading man, the endearingly Tilly-esque Margaret Ying Drake, and an appropriately bland and uncertain MacLeod Andrews.

Blackshears plays it maddeningly close to the vest, sometimes out of necessity. Given the subject matter and the guerilla style filmmaking, I can’t help but think of Larry Cohen’s God Told Me To. You probably don’t know what that is, and frankly you’re not missing much. The 70s were a hell of a thing. So think of this as a microbudget Jacob’s Ladder that relies on sound design and just the lightest touch of effects. It’s a less-is-so-much-more approach to tension. Jump scares? Who needs them? They Look Like People does what it needs to do with quiet shots, badly lit rooms, and disarming edits. It doesn’t have to lunge at you and make sudden loud noises. It’s not interested in how other horror movies do it, much less what other horror movies actually do. It’s ultimately got something else on its mind. Something far more disturbing.

Not to say it’s not a horror movie! It absolutely is. A supremely creepy one. But how many horror movies begin with the premise that greater love hath no man than he who would shave his friend’s back for him? Except for he who would repay the favor to the degree it’s repaid here.

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