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With: Laura Regan, Marc Blucas, Dagmara Dominczyk, Ethan Embry
Written by: Brendan Hood
Directed by: Robert Harmon
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for terror/violence, sexual content and language
Running Time: 89
Date: 11/01/2002
IMDB

They (2002)

1/2 Star (out of 4)

See How 'They' Re-runs

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Back in 1986, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert reviewed Robert Harmon's The Hitcher on their TV show. Not only did they pan it, they were incensed, convinced that humanity as a whole was finished thanks to such movies. Their reaction caused The Hitcher (starring Rutger Hauer and C. Thomas Howell) to gain a huge cult following on video.

Now director Harmon is back with a new horror film. They (also called, even more awkwardly, Wes Craven Persents They) was not screened for the press perhaps in the hopes of avoiding another such plastering. I wish I could report that They is outrageous or offensive in some way, and that it deserves its own cult following, but I'm afraid it's just flat out boring and stupid.

Even in the post-Scream world of self-awareness and irony, Harmon and screenwriter Brendan Hood are somehow perfectly at home pillaging every single horror movie cliché imaginable -- from the POV shot peering at the heroine through slats of wood, to the entire swimming pool sequence in Cat People -- and using them straight.

How Scream director Wes Craven allowed his name to be attached to this uninspiring lump is beyond me. Whatever he was paid, it wasn't enough.

The plot has four twentysomethings who have been marked as children by a species of computer animated spider-like thingees. The movie focuses on psychology student Julia Lund (Laura Regan, a blonde who probably weighs about 70 pounds).

The spider-like thingees can only survive in the dark and so they have to wait until each of our four heroes are alone in dark rooms, which is pretty much the entire movie. I can't understand why nobody bothers to install anything stronger than a yellowish 40-watt bulb in these kinds of movies. Aren't they afraid to strain their eyes?

Electric lights constantly short out, though it's not clear if the beasties are doing this or not. If they do have the power to shut out the lights, why not just shut down the whole city and get it over with?

Like all horror movies since When a Stranger Calls, They opens with a flashback to 20 years ago in which a little boy is afraid of a lightning storm. His mother tells him it's nothing, but we know that the beasties will get him. At one point, he lowers his voice and shudders "They come for me when it's dark," attempting -- and failing -- to mimic Haley Joel Osment's terrifying line readings from The Sixth Sense.

And yes, everyone in the movie refers to the spider-like thingees as "They" instead of simply "spider-like thingees." I guess it's not as scary if you come out and say it like that. In fact, it sounds kind of silly.

They fails even on a purely atmospheric level. The unknown city in which the movie is set couldn't have less personality. Twice Julia rides on a grimy city subway, but in another scene, she drives a big SUV down a dark and deserted country road. Where is she coming from or going to in these scenes? Why is she riding the subway if she has a car? Who knows? It's just a mindless excuse to get her in the dark again.

And whenever a scary "attack" scene comes up, Harmon whips the camera around as if a ferret was chewing on his leg, and then edits every half-second to try and cover up the mess. For all that, each and every scary moment in the movie is of the low-rent "sudden shock" type. And even then, anyone who has seen more than a handful of horror films will know when and where they will occur.

I will say this: if you've already paid your money and it's too late to get it back and you're tempted to walk out on They, hold on. The movie actually does have a pretty good ending. I wouldn't recommend sitting through the whole movie on any level, but, you know, just in case you're the kind who ignores warnings.

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