They Live in the Grey (2022) Offers Quiet Supernatural Horror
Title: They Live in the Grey
First Non-Festival Release: February 17, 2022 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Abel Vang, Burlee Vang
Writer: Abel Vang, Burlee Vang
Runtime: 123 Minutes
Starring: Michelle Krusiec, Ken Kirby, Ellen Wroe
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Still reeling from the sudden and tragic death of her ten-year-old Lucas (Jaden Tran), social worker Claire (Michelle Krusiec) finds that the grief continues to permeate into all aspects of her life. She refuses to communicate with her husband Peter (Ken Kirby), who is now living in another home, and she is struggling at work. She gets a case about suspected abuse of a young girl named Sophie (Madelyn Grace). When Claire investigates, she has reason to believe that parents Audrey (Ellen Wroe) and Giles (J.R. Cacia) are not the ones hurting Sophie, but something far worse is the cause.
A meaty supernatural horror drama, They Live in the Grey meditates on the horrors of self-forgiveness and acceptance.
Told in bits and fragments, They Live in the Grey weaves Claire’s past in and out of the narrative as she does her best to help the Lang family. Claire’s arc is meticulously strung out over the course of the film, allowing her to soak in the emotions she’s long withheld. Her inability to accept Lucas’s death prevents her from truly seeing what is happening to the Langs. Her journey becomes crucial in uncovering the truth behind Sophie’s abuse.
Michelle Krusiec’s performance is stunning. She captures such difficult and complex emotions without phoning it in. Every moment is intentional with Claire’s character and Krusiec processes each moment with dexterity and vulnerability. The rest of the cast does a fine job with other outliers including struggling husbands, opposite very different wives, Peter and Giles, played by Ken Kirby and J.R. Cacia.
One out-of-place cheesy line sums up the idea of living in the grey. It’s this idea of not quite knowing where one’s place is and trying to understand what it is and what it means. It doubles for the visions of ghosts Claire sees who struggle to accept their death and move on with their afterlife. A perfect summary for the film, despite its clunky delivery, this encapsulates the themes of acceptance and grief that help sell They Live In the Grey as a fuller supernatural horror experience.
A quiet film in terms of scope, They Live in the Grey still offers plenty of spookiness to satisfy those looking for some traditional haunted house scares. Due to Claire’s ability to see the ghosts of those who are unable to move on, there are plenty of frightening or otherwise uncanny moments that help give the film a darker feel. It’s not until the climax where the film truly gets solidified into the horrific reality behind the case. Truths are uncovered, shots are fired, and Clair finally has the chance to redeem herself in her own mind. There are some pretty nasty bone crunches and splits towards the end that may evoke cringes but overall it is a pretty grounded film.
The biggest issue with They Live in the Grey revolves around its pacing. A few scenes feel like filler and ultimately don’t push the narrative far enough to justify inclusion. There is nothing wrong with moving at a deliberate pace, but this film takes liberties in trusting the audience to get there. It’s a somber horror without much in terms of truly terrifying sequences, so this does hurt its overall impact.
While it doesn’t quite hit every note it aims for, They Live in the Grey is a haunting portrait of the effects loss has on a person. Anchored by a heavyweight performance by Krusiec, They Live in the Grey shines thanks to her incredible knack for capturing the precise emotion with the slightest tremble in the voice or twitch of the cheek. Her grief is tangible and commands attention in the otherwise sleepy horror drama. Languid pacing and excess lingering shots prevent They Live in the Grey from achieving a truly frightening vision, but it works in crafting a more subdued portrayal of grief horror. I look forward to what the Vang brothers make next if they decide to continue their venture into horror. You may not want to live in the grey, but you should surely check out this Shudder exclusive.
Overall Score? 6/10