Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews - By Fans For Fans



 Directed by Abel Vang and Burlee Vang.
Starring Michelle Krusiec, Ken Kirby, Madelyn Grace.
Horror, United States, 124 mins, cert 18.

Out now on DVD and digital from Acorn Media International. RRP £15.99.


If you liked THE SIXTH SENSE but thought it needed to be even more depressing, and feature less Bruce Willis, then the latest horror from the Vang Brothers, out now on DVD and digital download from Acorn Media International, might be just the thing to watch on a spooky October night in.


THEY LIVE IN THE GREY follows emotionally scarred clairvoyant social worker Claire (Michelle Krusiec) who lives in constant fear of the aggressive ghosts that torment her on a daily basis (such as cropping up at dinner and bleeding ghost blood all over the place, or trying to grab her when she puts out the bins). At work Claire is given a new child protection case that involves a young girl (Madelyn Grace) whose school is growing concerned by the various scratches and bruises she keeps receiving. Are these from skateboarding mishaps (as she claims) or from the hands of her seemingly caring parents, or could they perhaps even be the result of something otherworldly? Claire must use her psychic skills, and come to terms with a tragic event in her own past, in order to help the troubled girl before it’s too late.


This film features plenty of genuinely distressing scenes and isn’t a fun watch. Most of the ghost appearances are truly unsettling, including a distraught mother and her wailing baby in a hospital morgue and a traffic cop with a wound in their head who doesn’t realise she is dead.


Grey is an appropriate colour to include in the title as this is a completely humourless and dour film. There is an all-prevailing sense of sadness and gloom throughout. It’s a slow contemplative film, with plenty of silences broken up by an occasional sad score. It’s appropriate for the content in this case, but I do prefer a little touch of lightness in my films, and at two hours it could have slotted in at least some gentle humour.


Unfortunately, this film is done a disservice by its similarities, both tonally and in story, to THE SIXTH SENSE and it falls short when directly compared to M Night Shyamalan’s still slickly effective chiller. Whereas THE SIXTH SENSE had a simple story and directorial style, and an easy to sympathise with protagonist in its child star (which made the supernatural intrusions all the more starkly shocking), THEY LIVE IN THE GREY muddies things with occasionally intentionally disorientating stylistic choices and a mysterious emotionally closed lead (whose past is revealed as the story goes along) making the film less effective on the whole as it’s harder to engage on a human level with the proceedings at first. However, the one thing that this film does have that THE SIXTH SENSE doesn’t is a gratuitous shot of a ghost’s bare bum (so there are pros and cons to each film).


THEY LIVE IN THE GREY is anchored by a stellar performance from Michelle Krusiec as Claire Yang, I was previously unfamiliar with her although she has worked prolifically in television. She is entirely believable as the emotionally numb and traumatised care worker and she has to suffer all manner of manhandling at the hands of ghosts and humans throughout the film.


This is streaming as a Shudder Original and if you already subscribe to that service there is no particular reason to get this on disc as the only special feature you get is a photo gallery (which really stretches the definition of both special and feature).


Overall, THEY LIVE IN THE GREY is a solidly effective moody horror that effectively chills and disturbs but is somewhat let down by an overly familiar plot and an unnecessarily indulgent runtime. If you like your horror to be earnest and sad then this is definitely worth a watch, but if you prefer more fun-house style tongue-in-cheek thrills then this might not be for you.


John Upton.


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Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews
By Fans For Fans