Although mainstream horror has faltered in recent years, terror junkies have enjoyed a string of rock-solid films from independent studios. Check out my posts about The Invitation and Hush for a few examples. Perry Blackshear’s They Look Like People is another hard-hitting entry in this dynasty of independent horror, but it brings some fascinating dynamics to the table.
Rest assured that, like most of the great horror pieces that have been cropping up, They Look Like People generates terror by slowly building tension and dread rather than through cheap jump scares. Blackshear pulls off some interesting moves in order to achieve this. (minor spoilers ahead) For instance, as a result of some repeated sequences that occur when the protagonist goes to sleep, I found myself dreading a terror lurking in the dark every time the day’s light began to fail. The film relegates its fear to certain times, warning the viewer through stylistic moves when a frightful crescendo is about to build. The effect is that viewers aren’t surprised when the horror culminates, but the built-up dread is just as effective at making the audience want to cower in terror.
The film also gives a compelling, cathartic look into the relationship between two friends. Without spoiling anything, it’s a beautiful story about one man who notices too much in the world and another who tries to block it out. The way these two men interact and how their priorities and affectations clash forms the backbone of the film’s emotional effect.
If you’re a fan of modern independent horror, or if you’re looking for a good place to dive into the psychological terror Renaissance, They Look Like People is worth your time.