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Movie Review

A student of abnormal psychology, Julia is trying to straighten out her life following a tormented, tragic youth. Her father committed suicide when she was young. The resulting trauma sparked night terrors that she has since outgrown . . . or has she? Sounds coming from under the bed. Silent intruders in the closet. Things that scuttle around in the dark. A creepy parallel universe on the other side of her medicine cabinet (surely you struggled with that one in preschool, too?). Suddenly they’re an issue all over again thanks in no small part to a terrified childhood friend named Billy who meets Julia at a diner, tells her that "they" are coming, then kills himself right there in the booth.

Later, Julia meets two of Billy’s friends who also suffered from night terrors as children. After a series of startling moments and odd occurrences, these three twentysomethings realize that they were all "marked" by the goonies as kids, and now "they" are coming to collect them. Will anyone survive? The film’s full title is Wes Craven Presents: They. Attaching Craven’s name to the project is a shameless attempt to cash in on his track record as the king of high-concept horror. Craven wrote and directed A Nightmare on Elm Street (which spawned six sequels and a TV series), as well as the self-aware Scream trilogy (with a combined domestic box office take of $300 million). But apart from being a drawing card, his role here is unclear. Not that it will matter in the long run. The door is left open for a sequel, but They lacks the imagination and conviction necessary to ignite a horror franchise.

positive elements: Julia’s boyfriend, Paul, genuinely cares for her and looks after her when she’s not well. A girl apologizes for an insensitive remark that offends Julia.

spiritual content: A priest is present at a funeral. A girl wears a cross around her neck (she takes it off to go swimming and doesn’t live to put it back on).

sexual content: Julia and Paul retreat to his bedroom and start kissing and undressing each other (the phone rings before they get too far). Later, Julia enlists Paul to scour her lingerie-clad body for the telltale mark "they" use to brand people. This evolves into a sexual encounter that takes place while a young man is being chased down and dragged off by monsters (the violence is embedded directly between the two sexual scenes). Paul’s roommate walks in on a naked Julia.

violent content: The film opens with a doe-eyed 6-year-old boy being scared out of his mind by real critters hiding in his dark bedroom. The beasts drag him screaming under his bed. That boy was Billy, the same young man who seeks to end the nightmares by putting a gun under his chin and pulling the trigger (blood splatters on Julia’s face). Others are stalked and pulled—presumably alive—into a living hell where creatures intend to use them for who-knows-what. A girl shares how she watched her sister drown, then was so traumatized by night terrors that she thought her dad was a monster and stabbed him in the eye with a kitchen knife. Paul notes that he spent his day dealing with a massive traffic accident, "cutting dead people out of their cars." It’s rather gross watching Julia extract a long, splinter-like item out of her head (blood drips into the sink). Thinking she’s battling creatures, Julia attacks what turn out to be subway workers. A few are wounded before they subdue her.

crude or profane language: About 10 profanities including two misuses of Jesus’ name, two s-words and an f-word.

drug and alcohol content: Paul’s roommates hang out and drink beer. On one occasion, Paul joins them and, when confronted by Julia, admits to being a little drunk. A young man is shown smoking cigarettes on numerous occasions (not that lung cancer is a big concern when you’re in danger of being carted off by creatures of the night). A college professor puffs a cigar. To help Julia sleep, Paul fixes her a sedative.

other negative elements: Julia forces herself to vomit in graphic fashion.

conclusion: Didn’t these people see Disney’s Monsters Inc.? Scaring is out; comedy is in! I guess no one across the hall at Dimension Films got the memo. So it’s back into the closet for beasties so hideously scary that the studio feels the need to protect us by not giving us a really good look at them. They is a borderline R-rated horror flick that succumbs to genre cliches and thinks blending Mimic with A Nightmare on Elm Street constitutes a new idea. This is just a variation on a tired theme. A few genuine scares, but very few surprises. Also predictable is the movie’s toxic merging of sex and violence to ratchet up the titillation factor. Very irresponsible. As for the moral of the story, it too is standard stuff: If you hope to grow up and survive in this world, you must face your demons���imagined or otherwise. There, I just saved you $7.50 and 90 minutes of your life.

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Laura Regan as Julia Lund; Marc Blucas as Paul; Ethan Embry as Sam; Dagmara Dominczyk as Terry; Jon Abrahams as Billy


Robert Harmon ( )


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Bob Smithouser

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