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 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.