Wyatt and Christian have known each other since before college, but time and circumstance can sweep even the closest of friends in different directions then unexpectedly back together. Recently single, the boxes in the corner of his apartment a reminder of how empty it now is, Christian is walking home when he sees Wyatt on his block and naturally invites him up.
Wyatt also having broken up with his fiancée, he is reticent to ask so it is Christian who makes the offer of a place to stay to tide him over, two men reconnecting in the alienating anonymity of the big city, their first night involving a double date with Christian’s boss Mara whom he has finally summed up the courage to ask out and her friend.
An already awkward evening made worse by an unexpected trip to the hospital emergency room, the men collapse exhausted when they get back, but Wyatt is woken from his nightmares to a ringing phone at four in the morning, a voice telling him that he must prepare for the war, that that soon they will enslave and butcher every good person. “Trust no one. Trust was no longer an option when we discovered them.”
The first collaboration of writer/director Perry Blackshear and his acting ensemble of MacLeod Andrews, Evan Dumouchel and Margaret Ying Drake, They Look Like People receives a belated British release three years after its premiere courtesy of the FrightFest Presents label which earlier this year released their followup, the enigmatic lure of The Siren.
Part Invasion of the Body Snatchers, part Donnie Darko, in They Look Like People Blackshear has captured the daylight paranoia of The Stepford Wives which makes commonplace objects and behaviour sinister, Wyatt caught in the same dilemma as Joanna Eberhart: “If I am wrong, I’m insane, but if I’m right, it’s even worse than if I was wrong.”
The friendship between Wyatt and Christian genuine and generous, devoid of macho posturing, they do not compete except in play, Christian adorably dopey around the far more capable Mara and aware that Wyatt is suffering but unaware of the extent of his psychosis or how far down the rabbit hole he will be pulled when Wyatt takes him into his confidence, telling him that there are aliens among them and that they look like people – except for their eyes.
The premise made disturbing by the matter-of-fact presentation, Wyatt prepares for the invasion with axes, rope and sulphuric acid, alone on the roof of their building with a nailgun watching the passersby on the street below, a lonely and terrifying feeling of power and responsibility in the hands of a man waiting for a sign which may come at any moment or may only be in his mind.
The manifestations of what may be his psychotic episodes accompanied by the sounds of bees, a swarming hive mentality in which he is losing himself, built around the sensitive performances of Andrews and Dumouchel They Look Like People is genuinely unsettling in its depiction of the symptoms of mental illness and the lengths to which a devoted friend will go for someone who is possibly already beyond help.
They Look Like People is available from Monday 8th July from FrightFest Presents