Are humans really being taken over by demons cloaked as humans in this cinematic world? It’s hard to say what’s real and what’s not in writer/director Perry Blackshear’s “They Look Like People”. The film sucks you in with its direction and performances because on this psycho paranoia train, you can either get on or get left at the station.
Wyatt (MacLeod Andrews) shows up on the doorstep of his old friend Christian’s (Evan Dumouchel) NYC home. The two haven’t spoken in years, but were very close at one point. Close enough that Christian is willing to let Wyatt tag along on his date with his boss, Mara (Margaret Ying Drake). The date goes wrong for all the reasons you wouldn’t think, as Mara’s friend has slipped on the sidewalk before they meet. This makes for a night in the emergency room for the trio, and a newly formed bond to boot.
Wyatt tells Christian that he plans to move on, but Christian insists he stay for a while.
Even though they haven’t kept up with each other we find they share a couple similarities. They both have recently had a breakup with their longtime girlfriend. They both hear voices speaking to them. While Evan listens to self-empowerment albums, Wyatt listens to a voice on the phone that tells him about the impending war that’s coming. The phone voice describes invasion of body snatcher-like creatures that look like people, but have already infiltrated the world.
As Wyatt begins preparing for the battle by stockpiling an arsenal in Christian’s basement, the paranoia of the film really takes off. Blackshear achieves this on two fronts. Aurally he gets into the viewer’s mind with the voices that play in narration. Christian’s self-empowerment voice is soft, soothing, and disarming. Wyatt hears from two different voices; one male voice that is older and authoritative, and one female voice that sounds genuine and at times worried. The combination of the voices talking to the main characters non-diegetically (off screen), becomes just as swaying for the viewer in forming opinions of what’s real and what’s not.
The other weapon in Blackshear’s arsenal is the film’s editing, which he did himself. The film hard cuts forward in time throughout its scenes. This compression of time keeps the audience’s attention as they are forced to piece together what to take away from the scene, and wonder if anything was left out. It’s easy to follow, but the technique slowly seeps into the mind and causes a bit of uneasiness.
“They Look Like People” is definitely a pot that simmers slowly throughout its running time and leads to a climactic boil that pays off. With a strong direction from Blackshear and equally natural performances from its actors, the film makes you want to turn on thehouse lights in the theater and take a second look at the person next to you.