they (2002)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 1-Sep-2003

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Dolby Digital Trailer-Canyon
Alternate Ending
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 85:50
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Robert Harmon
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Laura Regan
Marc Blucas
Ethan Embry
Dagmara Dominczyk
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI ? Music Elia Cmiral


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    There are really only two types of horror movie - the blood drenched gore fest of splatter horror, or the usually-not-quite-so-blood-drenched thriller horror (and before you ask, slashers - if indeed they are horrors - fit into this category). The second category, into which they slots quite snugly, has only one primary aim, and that is to scare its audience. This type of horror film, if done correctly, can cause some of the strongest emotional reactions possible to experience in the relative safety of a cinema (or home cinema). If done poorly, however, this type of film can become tedious extremely quickly. Unfortunately, while there are plenty of examples of how not to create this type of film, there are considerably fewer efforts that actually work. It really is all about state of mind. The best horror can draw you in and scare you witless, almost regardless of how much you remind yourself "it's not real!" Most horror can only dream of this level, and so the worse the movie, the harder you actually have to try to be scared. They, while far from being one of the genre's greats, provides a number of good scares, and one extreme moment of panic that easily sets the pulse racing, making it an effective horror.

    Like all effective horror, they takes something that we are all inherently afraid of - things that go "bump" in the night - and gives it a good reworking. After an opening that no parent should let their young child see lest they never sleep again, we meet Julia (Laura Regan), a successful psychology graduate student, close to completing her masters. Julia has a good life, with her own apartment, a caring boyfriend in Paul (the talent void that is Marc Blucas), and a career that is about to take off. The only thing that is out of place is childhood friend Billy, who is seriously unstable, continuously ranting about staying in the light, and how "they" are coming to get the two of them. Only when Billy suffers one of his worst episodes does Julia begin to believe that he isn't quite so insane after all. As time goes by, and the creatures of the night become ever more persistent, Julia begins to talk to Billy's friends Sam (Ethan Embry) and Terry (Dagmara Dominczyk), and together they attempt to find a way around their seemingly inevitable fate.

    While this film is effective in providing a number of good chills, it does not really do enough to become a classic. There are two major problems - casting, and motivation. The casting is all haywire - while Laura Regan is not bad, she just does not have the real charisma called for by her role, or to put it bluntly, we are not encouraged to care about her enough. From there it just gets worse. Mark Blucas proves once again that he should have stayed in basketball (there was bound to be a coaching position he could have taken to spare us his acting), while Ethan Embry seems to have no purpose other than to spout some "mysterious" lines and generally stay aloof. Finally, Dagmara Dominczyk, almost unrecognisable here from her role in The Count Of Monte Cristo, purrs her way through the film as if she is trying to seduce every person she talks to.

    The motivation is a bigger problem than the casting, and it affects both the protagonist, and the mysterious "they". The main characters, for most of the film, run around like the proverbial headless chickens, getting absolutely nowhere fast. This becomes quite frustrating, and if it were not for the continually pervasive atmosphere, and the frequent scares, it would be a much larger problem. On the other side of the equation, we learn almost nothing about the monsters, why "they" are doing what they are doing, and what their purpose is. In a way, this is a double edged sword, as the lack of information serves to make "they" more mysterious and scarier, but it also leads to the movie being ultimately unsatisfying. While leaving questions unanswered is often both a creative decision, and one that the marketing is not disappointed about, some information would be useful.

    But enough intellectualising - this is after all a horror film, and what is most important is that it does scare you very well. This is certainly not one to watch alone in the dark on a rainy night...as I did. Grab a friend (or a plush toy), turn the lights off, free your imaginations, and be prepared to jump out of your skin on more than one occasion.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    The video transfer presented for they is actually a little disappointing, looking weary beyond its years.

    Presented at the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, this transfer is 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is not particularly sharp, looking quite "dull" at times. Grain is a constant background presence, and at times, such as from 7:54 until 8:45, becomes heavy enough to be distracting. Shadow detail is not as good as it could be, with many of the darker scenes (and as this is a horror movie about things that live in the dark, there's plenty of them) becoming monotonous, although there is still generally enough detail to determine what is happening. There is no low-level noise present.

    Not only are colours a little dark, but the entire transfer is a bit on the dark side, and not in the way that could be expected from a horror movie. Going hand-in-hand with the "dull" appearance of the transfer is the darkness. The main effect of this is that colours that most modern transfers represent in a vibrant and solid manner are just not as vibrant. The effect of this is to make this transfer look more like some that were produced in the early days of DVD.

    There are a few instances of pixelization, such as at 19:01, and these are usually caused by heavier grain. A bigger problem, however, is that the transfer just has that feeling of being a little over-compressed. There are numerous instances of motion-trails, such as at 30:53, and these combined with the "dull" appearance of the transfer would suggest that this film would have benefited from the dual-layer treatment (regardless of its short 86 minute run-time). Despite the lack of sharpness, aliasing does occur, although it is not too bad. There are some obvious instances, such as on the building at 5:32 and Laura Regan's legs at 77:07, but in general it is mostly minor and not too distracting. Film artefacts are present to a degree, and while always small, are frequent enough to be a little annoying on such a recent movie.

    The subtitles are almost word-for-word accurate, are well paced, and easy to read.

    This is a single-layered disc, and as such does not contain a layer change.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Unlike the video, the audio transfer really steps up to the plate, and delivers on everything that it promises to be.

    There are two audio tracks present on this disc, both containing the original English dialogue, one in Dolby Digital 5.1 at 384 Kbps, and the other in Dolby Digital 2.0 surround at 192 Kbps. As an aside, this is the first Roadshow disc I have seen in some time to feature a Dolby Digital 2.0 track, so it would be interesting to know why this disc in particular features one.

    The dialogue is clear and easy to understand at all times, even during the many "emotional" exchanges. Audio sync is never a problem and is spot-on throughout.

    The score is credited to Elia Cmiral, and it is a very good effort. It manages to avoid most of the genre clichés while still doing what genre scores have been doing for years. It very much helps the suspense, and never lets on when a big jump is about to come.

    Surround use is extremely good for the 5.1 track. The surrounds are not just restricted to carrying the score - which they still do - but also work hard delivering plenty of ambient noise at all times, and when things start to get creepy they really kick in, and turn the creep factor up to 10. The 5.1 soundtrack contains some of the best surround sound design available for home theatre. While the 2.0 surround track tries, it just does not have the ability to match the 5.1 track. Many of the directional effects are still present, but without the stereo separation they are considerably flatter, while the diminished range is also apparent in the score and effects. While those restricted to Pro-Logic only will not be too badly off, this film is meant to be experienced in 5.1 audio.

    The subwoofer is well utilised, and presents an even performance backing up both the score, and the more aggressive effects noises. While again the 5.1 track has the edge here, redirected bass from the 2.0 track is still very good.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    This is a rental disc, so the lack of any in-depth extras is at least somewhat excusable.

Menu

    The menu is static, silent, 16x9 enhanced, and themed around the movie.

Alternate Ending (3:42)

    Presented at 2.35:1, and 16x9 enhanced, this alternative ending delivers the closure the film so desperately needed. Unfortunately, it is not without its problems - often resolutions like this are not as satisfying as no ending at all, and that was obviously the choice of the filmmakers in this case. Personally, I found this ending to be far more satisfying, and its clichéd nature is alleviated by the manner in which it is presented.

Theatrical Trailer (2:19)

    Presented at 1.85:1, not 16x9 enhanced, and featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 surround audio, this trailer is quite effective, although it does resort to the "many quick, scary images" montage technique towards the end in an attempt to make it feel edgier.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This DVD will not be released until early next month in Region 1, and as such, details of the US edition are hard to determine. As such, this section will be updated when reviews of the Region 1 version become available.

Summary

    They is a good fright-fest. Its tendency to leave questions unanswered will endear it to some, but makes it ultimately unsatisfying. Doesn't stop it from being genuinely scary though.

    The video is quite disappointing, looking "dull" and lifeless for the most part. This transfer would have been considered good in the early days of DVD, but these days it just does not cut the mustard.

    Unlike the video, the audio is excellent. This movie was made to be experience in surround sound, and some of the effects will cause the hairs on the back of your neck to rise. The 2.0 surround track is also very good, but cannot truly match it with the 5.1 mix.

    The extras are extremely limited, but this is a rental disc, so we really need to wait and see what will be delivered for the retail release in a few months time.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Nick Jardine (My bio, it's short - read it anyway)
Thursday, May 29, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-555K, using Component output
DisplayLoewe Xelos 5381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS787, THX Select
SpeakersRochester Audio Animato Series (2xSAF-02, SAC-02, 3xSAB-01) + 12" Sub (150WRMS)

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Anthony H (read my bio)
The DVD Bits - Allan H
Jeff K's Australian DVD Info Site - Fiona C

Comments (Add)
The Release Disc is the Rental Disc - Gavin Bollard (bio - updated 9 Nov 2005)