An effective and unsettling neuro-psychological thriller, “They Look Like People” creates a creepily mundane sense of dread in its depictions of a schizophrenic’s paranoid delusions. With immersive sound design and simple practical staging, writer-director Perry Blackshear creates a cinematic world that drifts in and out of the subjective perspectives of old friends Christian (Evan Dumouchel) and Wyatt (MacLeod Andrews), who reconnect in New York.
Wyatt is tormented by visions and voices on the phone that promise impending doom and alien-like infection while Christian listens to affirmations on the subway and flirts fumblingly with his boss. As Wyatt’s already tenuous grasp on reality slips, he becomes a greater danger to those around him, even as he tries to play off his transgressions as joking around.
Andrews does a fine job portraying a man trying desperately to appear normal to those around him, even as he’s slipping further into his own fears and erratic behavior, plunged into a reality of aural hallucinations that prevent him from discerning reality. The soundtrack buzzes, whispers, commands and cajoles in time with Wyatt and Christian’s rocky emotions.
What terrifies most in “They Look Like People” is the threat inside rather than anything external. This unease is mixed with a rather sweet message about friendship and connection between old friends, and how ultimately trust can be a salve for a psychic wound.
‘They Look Like People’
Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
Playing: Arena Cinema, Hollywood