They Look Like People review

They Look Like People will likely terrify anyone who’s ever gotten nervous on the subway, when a passing glance starts to turn into a prolonged stare. It’s a repressively claustrophobic experience that’s uncomfortably relatable and stands next to films like Primer, which manage to accomplish quite a bit on a small budget.

Christian (Evan Dumouchel) is going through a lot. Diffident at the office, he listens to motivational recordings on the subway. He is trying to work up the nerve to ask out his boss (Margaret Ying Drake). That’s nothing compared to his college friend Wyatt (MacLeod Andrews), who has just arrived at his doorstep with the paranoid delusion that people are being taken over by demons and he’s the only one who can save his friend from the oncoming apocalyptic war.  

People was released in 2015, after several years in production, and fell in with other mental health horror films of the recent past like Take Shelter. It was well-received at the time, and now ripe for Vinegar Syndrome to release a special edition Blu-Ray.

None of it would matter if it didn’t feel human. Andrews is incredibly empathetic, with just enough of a hint of who he may have been before his delusions took hold.  It’s an endearing performance, even charming, as he attempts to keep his veneer of sanity. 

If People has a secret weapon, it’s the sound design, which Blackshear orchestrated himself. The eerie cacophony of buzzing flies, crinkling skin and apocalypse trumpets is at times dizzying. He also has a knack for visual storytelling, framing the growing divide between old friends in a crowded, claustrophobic one-bedroom apartment.  The apartment itself becomes a character. It’s dreary and imposing, with awkward dividing walls. It’s also a haunting relic of college days – Christian should have graduated to something better by now, but neither of them has.

Ultimately, People settles on a few themes in its effectively tight runtime (and enough gay subtext to form another review on) – trust and the lies we tell each other as well as ourselves. 

“I’m not killing anyone”, Christian insists after hearing of Wyatt’s plan – while also signing up for the army. It goes deeper than that when we see how Christian’s coworkers feel about his lifestyle reboot. That trust is ultimately put to the test in the film’s unbearably intense finale.

It’s tense, but the resolution feels lacking. There’s little ambiguity about Wyatt’s illness. Anyone who’s seen depictions of schizophrenia, capgras delusion or other similar neurological disorders will recognize the symptoms. People lets its characters, and audience, down easy, but any relief is more fleeting than perhaps intended. 

You Can Order They Look Like People From Vinegar Syndrome

Vinegar Syndrome Special Features

The special features are always just as much of the appeal of any Vinegar Syndrome release. The disc features a director’s introduction which sets the tone for the rest of the features. There are interviews that provide a nice making-of collage of stories, and Blackshear and company clearly had a lot of fun speaking again (albeit through Zoom), and they’re a delight to be around. What you really get is a sense of what the set must have been like – something that’s backed up by the Behind-the-scenes footage. It’s also something Blackshear specifically mentions loving about these sort of releases in his introduction to the disc, so Vinegar Syndrome did go out of its way to adhere to the director’s full vision. You’d expect nothing less.

Additional info:
• Region Free Blu-ray
• Intro Director
• Deleted scenes (with commentaries)
• BTS footage / Production journal
• Commentaries
— Producer
— Cast
— Director
• Essay By Anton Bitel
• Interviews/Discussion with the cast and Director
• Reversible Cover artwork
• Trailer
• French Subs
• Spanish Subs
• English CC

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