By Nikki Busalacchi
If you’re looking for a film to take your mind off your own sick, twisted mental illness(es), They Look Like People provides the perfect distraction – and follows the life of Wyatt (MacLeod Andrews), a guy with a sick and twisted mental illness. Shot, edited, written, produced, and directed by Perry Blackshear, this indie psychological thriller marks his directorial debut (and as far as debuts go, this one was a banger).
It’s evident from the start of the film that Wyatt is slightly troubled. In a parallel montage, Christian, (Evan Dumouchel) faces his own struggles, and things get a little awkward when the long-lost friendship is rekindled as Wyatt stumbles back into town. While Christian is preoccupied with “dominating” at his job, getting over the loss of his girlfriend, and asking out his boss, Wyatt’s set of issues are quickly revealed to be much more sinister. After Christian insists Wyatt crash in his apartment, Wyatt receives a series of late-night phone calls from a caller whose voice and number are disguised. He receives sets of instructions, and ominous warnings: there is an alien species whose only goal is to infect innocent humans, and they look like people.
As Christian and Wyatt become closer, and information on the alien species becomes more specific, it’s clear that Wyatt struggles with handling the responsibility of being the sole combatant in the impending war – with unique skill sets comes great responsibility, of course. He begins to make his own late-night phone calls to a therapist, but has a difficult time differentiating between the real, the imagined, and the alien. Arming himself with power tools, gas masks, and eventually sulfuric acid, the line between reality and fiction is blurred for Wyatt – and the audience as well. As an internal battle rages on, Wyatt must decide if he should confess his fears to his best friend, and whether Christian will even believe him; but this hesitation could mean the difference between life and death.
Without a doubt, the suspense of Wyatt’s troubles, and the curiosity about just what the fuck is going on, are the best parts of this film. Though, admittedly, I’m not the greatest at predicting plot twists and finales, They Look Like People felt more like a journey of self-discovery through horror, mystery, and thrill than a movie whose only purpose is to achieve an end goal. Throughout the film, I found myself becoming attached to and concerned for the main character, quietly hoping for his success and relief from the burden and fear of alien knowledge.
Additionally, while each new scene leaves the audience questioning whether Wyatt’s experiences are real or hallucinated, Perry Blackshear does an excellent job of touching on the delicate subject of mental illness, and alludes to the dangers of isolation. References to Wyatt’s past reveal that he had struggled with other burdensome thoughts before, and while it’s made clear that sometimes therapists aren’t a solution for everything, it’s also obvious that he has experienced – and will continue to experience – unwavering support from his friends and family. Whether taken at face value as a creepy horror flick, or seen as a metaphor for internal struggles, They Look Like People is an hour and twenty minutes of scary, suspenseful, and satisfying.
Available on Hulu and Amazon Video for $1.99 rental.