By Chet Dembeck
Have you ever experienced night terrors? Many have, including myself. Some write them off as nightmares triggered by an overactive subconscious. Some experts tell us that they are simply a product of sleep paralysis. But the late and great horror master Wes Craven, the executive producer of “They,” came up with a much more unconventional and terrorizing reason for such events.
In this disturbing and realistic 2002 horror thriller, Craven and his director Robert Harmon took a story written by Brendan Hood and turned it into one of the finest horror masterpieces I’ve seen in a long time. Its plot is quite interesting in that it follows two twenty somethings who had suffered from night terrors as children, who begin to experience them again as adults.
The story centers around psychology grad student Julia Lund (Laura Regan), who meets up with childhood friend Billy Parks (Jon Abrahams) at a local diner, after not seeing each other for many years. Billy seems out of sorts and acts as though someone is hunting him down, as his eyes continuously dart around the diner. A sudden thunderstorm causes the diner’s lights to flicker, which causes Billy to jump out out of his skin. He explains to Julia that he’s terrified of the dark because it is then that the night creatures from his past night terrors come to torment him. Billy then warns Julia that she should also stay out of the dark.
That evening Julia sleeps overnight at her paramedic boyfriend’s, Paul Loomis’ (Marc Blucas) apartment, only to be awoken in the middle of the night by the sound of a running shower coming from the bathroom. It is here that the film begins its horrific, ever-building crescendo of terror. I will not give you a blow-by-blow description and spoil the scene, but it involves a black liquid and a bathroom mirror that becomes a gateway into a dark world inhabited by shadowy, demonic creatures that go bump in the night and hide under beds and in closets.
Julia is startled to find out that her disturbed friend Billy has suddenly committed suicide. It is at his funeral that Julia meets two of his roommates, Terry Alba (Dagmara Dominczyk), and Sam Burnside (Ethan Embry). Later, Julia joins the duo and goes back to their apartment where they begin studying Billy’s diary. They become convinced that there is something more nefarious to his night terrors than bad nightmares and mental illness.
This is the point where the film really begins to build momentum – big time. Each scene, which revolves around the reality that Julia is now suffering the same night terrors from her childhood again, but this time the dark creatures are much more aggressive as they hunt her down whenever she sleeps, or the lights go out. All of this is wrapped up in flashback of Julia’s once suppressed memories of witnessing her father’s suicide.
It gets so bad that Julia begins to think she is losing her mind. This causes her boyfriend and her psychiatrist to commit her to a psychiatric unit. It is then that the final stages of horror raise their ugly heads. They end in a dark closet, in a scene that will forever be etched into my mind. You will have to watch the movie to see if you agree with me that “Wes Craven’s They” is an example of reaching a perfect pitch in cinematic horror.
While the critics received this horror masterpiece with tepid reviews, I find myself still haunted by it. Wondering if it is real or not.
© 2018 Chet Dembeck