Watching a truly scary movie is a great cure for drowsiness. Your heart thumps a little harder and your eyes get wider as you look for the next threat or listen for the bump in the night. Those things didn't happen when I watched They. After some 90 minutes of predictable thrills and chills, my winter coat was looking like a giant multi-colored pillow. The temptation to use it as such was overwhelming.
My obligations as a movie reviewer prohibit such behavior, so I got to see one of the most boring horror movies in recent memory. They's plot concerns a trio of young adults who delve into the world of nocturnal monsters with the help of their late friend's journal, which explains the creatures' behaviors. One actor in this group is Ethan Embry, who's gone from courting Jennifer Love Hewitt in the almost cult classic Can't Hardly Wait (1998), to getting third billing here. Come to think of it, that fact is scarier than anything you'll see in They.
Embry, like nearly everyone else in the cast, just goes through the motions, and for good reason. Brendan William Hood's script provides no interesting traits to his characters. They're essentially props that run and scream, meaning that Hood's script is the perfect companion for Robert Harmon's equally lifeless direction. Harmon stages his scenes with minimum thought and effort. His frightening setup: Every time a character is left alone, something bad happens to them. It's like he wants to deliberately insult the audience.
The worst part of They has to be that there isn't a single good fright anywhere. The characters are so uninteresting that they don't deserve our concern, the direction is uninspired and, most importantly, there's no memorable image. A good scary movie has something or someone that has the potential to haunt your dreams. Just look at recent examples. Scream had the killer in the Münch mask. The Sixth Sense and The Ring had creepy little kids. And They brings us... moving inkblots? Hostile oil stains? Storm clouds? I couldn't tell, but it was nothing that made my heart race. I know that we're supposed to be scared by what we can't see or don't recognize, but They takes it to the point of ineffectiveness.
The movie is just a waste. I don't know who would be satisfied by it. Horror fans will find it relentlessly tame. Teenagers (the movie is rated PG-13) won't be entertained by the limited titillation, either sexual or scary. Judging by its disappointing box office performance, despite the presence of Wes Craven's name, it looks like I may be right.
Now, that's really, really scary.
Pity those who see They on DVD, wherein an alternate ending is posited to explain (er, sorta) the kooky goings-on. Debate amongst your friends if it's a cop-out or a merciful conclusion to one of the worst films of the year.
Aka Wes Craven Presents: They. (Wes, what exactly did you have to do with this movie?)
Maybe she'll get run over before the inkspot gets her.