Spooky Movie Festival 2015: “They Look Like People” Reviewed

Posted by Michael Parsons on October 14, 2015 in / No Comments

 

When a demonic alien takeover is imminent and you’re the only one who knows about it, how do you broach the subject with your best friend? That’s the dilemma for Wyatt (MacLeod Andrews), a wayward soul burdened with the knowledge of a vaguely extraterrestrial infestation à la “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” in the superb psychological thriller “They Look Like People”. Wyatt is just sane enough to consider that the cryptic phone calls warning him of the event could actually be a sign of his own schizophrenia, but it’s a bit of a Catch 22 when your shrink (Mick Casale) might be a pod person. 

Bunking with long-lost childhood buddy Christian (Evan Dumouchel), an amiable guy in the midst of overcoming some major self-esteem issues of his own, recently single Wyatt secretly prepares for the apocalypse while simultaneously trying to avoid looking as crazy as Richard Dreyfuss in “Close Encounters”. As mentally exhausting as this proves to be, Wyatt manages to survive the NYC social scene without wearing a tin-foil hat or MV5BMTk0ODA1MzY3NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjQ0NzcyNDE@._V1_SX214_AL_randomly building sculptures out of mashed potatoes, reluctantly engaging in a double date with Christian and his boss Mara (Margaret Ying Drake), who Christian has been working up the nerve to ask out for several months.

Still, since the evil beings that plague Wyatt’s existence are indistinguishable from the rest of the population (except for when his sixth sense occasionally kicks in to signal that an impostor is present, recalling some freaky moments from “Jacob’s Ladder”), it’s impossible for him to know who to trust. Preparation for their arrival includes a pocket knife, a nail gun and several gallons of sulfuric acid which he stashes in the cellar unbeknownst to his buddy, who spends much of his time at the gym and listening to self-affirming motivational tapes. According to the mysterious “X-Files”-like entity that has Wyatt on speed dial with tips on how to survive the constant threat of possession, Christian is still one of the “good ones”, but likely won’t believe Wyatt’s outlandish claims so it’s useless to try to save him. Time to get out of the city for good.

Eerie, funny, and more heartbreakingly sensitive than most sci-fi thrillers would ever dare to be (while still being clever enough to slip in a reference to Asimov’s laws of robotics), it’s not evident how thoroughly potent “They Look Like People” is until its final harrowing minutes. From his own script, first-time feature director Perry Blackshear (who also acts as DP and editor, among other things), has crafted a movie of strange, diametrically opposed tones that gel impossibly well, evoking thoughts of what Carpenter’s cult classic “They Live” might have looked like if envisioned by the Duplass Brothers.

“They Look Like People” is featured at 7:10 PM this Friday, October 16th at the Spooky Movie International Horror Film Festival.

 

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Michael Parsons

Father. Realtor®. Movie nut. After pestering my parents for their commentary on “Star Wars” when I was four years old, my mind went into a creative frenzy. I’d imagined something entirely different than the actual film, which I didn’t end up seeing until its 1979 re-release at the Uptown Theater in Washington, DC. This was my formal introduction to the cinema.

During that long wait, which felt like an eternity to a child, my mind was being molded by more corrosive stuff like “Trilogy of Terror” and “Rosemary’s Baby”, most of which I’d conned various babysitters into letting me watch on television ( I convinced one poor lady that “Jaws” was actually “Moby Dick”).

The folks were pretty strict in that regard, so the less appropriate it was for a kid to watch, the more I was fascinated by it. Horror staples like “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th”, as well as lesser-known low-budget fare like “Madman”, “Sleepaway Camp” and “Pieces” all ended up sneaking their way into the VHS on a regular basis.

Since then, I’ve developed an obsession with the entire film industry. Even though I watch and review a wide breadth of films these days, my appreciation for the campy, poorly lit micro-budgeters still lends itself to my evolving perspective on movies just as much as the summer blockbusters and Oscar contenders. As I recall my trips to the movie theater, I realize that this stuff is about much more than just a fleeting piece of entertainment.

A couple years ago, I was finally given the opportunity to lend my opinion on films to a publication, The Rogers Revue, with a subsequent run at Reel Film News. It's been both a privilege and a gateway to what we’re doing now. Most of my experience has come from interviewing independent filmmakers, who consistently promote innovation. The filmmaking process is grueling and relatively unforgiving.

Fellow film enthusiast Eddie Pasa and I have created DC Filmdom as a medium for film reviews, discussion, and (inevitably) some debate. And so, the creative frenzy continues.

(Michael is a member of the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association).

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