“…what makes They Look Like People such a surprising movie? It’s the fact that it is so effective.”
When I sat down to watch They Look Like People I had no idea what to expect. Sure, the Netflix featured image gave the idea that it would be a horror movie, but beyond that I hadn’t the slightest clue as to what i would be watching. Ultimately, this worked to my advantage because what I was met with was a movie that surprised me from start to finish. They Look Like People is a movie by writer/director Perry Blackshear about a man who believes that the world is under attack by things that take control of the bodies of humans, essentially becoming invisible until it is time to strike. Is this a new concept? Absolutely not. We’ve seen this idea executed in (arguably some of the best) horror movies of the past, so what makes They Look Like People such a surprising movie? It’s the fact that it is so effective.
At the beginning of the film, before the plot is even revealed, you are met with this sense of unease. This is carried out throughout the entire film and is accomplished through many different ways. First I would like to talk about the editing. The editing in They Look Like People is in my opinion where the film shines. From the second the movie starts we are met with edits that seem to be hurried, always trying to get to the next scene but never really accomplishing anything in the previous one. We follow characters who seem to know one another but it isn’t until later that we find out exactly how well they do. It’s the editing that creates this disconnect between you and the characters; but the disconnect is really a reflection of how the main character is feeling toward these characters and even the world. I love movies that are able to make me feel like the main character; this is a lot different than feeling for the main character because it requires not just a good story but top notch execution, and They Look Like People delivers this feeling. It isn’t just the editing that accomplishes this feat, but really all aspects. One thing I want to focus on is the use of ADR. Now I’m not sure if what I’m about to describe is intentional, but I’m going to give the writer/director credit and assume it is. Throughout the film there are many points where the characters are speaking, but it is obvious that their voices are disembodied. For example, there is a scene where two characters are playing basketball, but their voices sound very clear and close to the microphone. This added another layer of disassociation to the film because our brains pick up on stuff like that. We realize that in that setting, their voices don’t match what we should be hearing. Add that to the fact that we very rarely see their mouths move with the words that are being spoken and you have this weird feeling while watching this scene. Like I said, this could have been something that was unavoidable (it is usually difficult for indie films to get good audio especially in large, outdoor conditions), but it worked so well for the film adding another layer to this almost alien appearance. Of course a lot of the weight falls on the actors shoulders to deliver great performances, and they absolutely knocked it out of the park. It’s interesting because a lot of the scenes in the movie seem to come out of nowhere or have no bearing on the plot, but it doesn’t matter to me because the way they were acted definitely grounded the movie. Even though I say the movie did a great job of creating a disconnect between the audience and what it was showing, the truth is you need to have it a little bit grounded in order for the story to have any impact (if that makes sense). The actors did this perfectly by just acting real. There were a few times when I forgot I was watching actors reading from a script and not some friends having a good time. Of course, when the movie started to get heavier all of the actors were able to show subtleties that really brought home the feeling of this being real. And without spoiling anything, I just want to say that the final sequence of the movie is absolutely breathtaking and definitely made sure that this movie was a masterpiece.
At the beginning of my review I likened They Look Like People to horror greats such as The Thing, They Live, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and I was able to do that because to me it is definitely on par with those films. I definitely recommend that you watch They Look Like People.
I give They Look Like People an A