They Reach (2020) Might Make You Reach For Something Else Instead
Title: They Reach
First Wide Release: May 29, 2020 (DVD/Blu Ray Release)
Director: Sylas Dall
Writer: Sylas Dall
Runtime: 87 Minutes
Starring: Mary Madaline Roe, Morgan Chandler, Eden Campbell
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Jessica Daniels (Mary Madaline Roe) is an intelligent young girl dealing with the loss of her brother. Her father (Ash Calder) indulges her in her quirkiness and more nerdy interests, but her mother (Elizabeth Rhoades) doesn’t quite understand her. After she shows dad her latest antique store haul, she accidentally cuts herself over a possessed tape player. Unknowingly, Jessica has set into motion a series of events that will plunge the tiny town of Clarkston into darkness to be beset by demons. It’s up to Jessica and her best friends Sam (Morgan Chandler) and Cheddar (Eden Campbell) to stop the evil before it consumes everyone they know and love.
They Reach is a clunky throwback film that trades good storytelling for nostalgia.
This indie film had so much potential to be a fun and fresh entry into the horror adventure subgenre of films. Unfortunately, it is weighed down by poor writing, dialogue, and acting to really elevate it beyond a cash in on the ‘Stranger Things’ trend in horror we are seeing right now. Despite this, I do think the production team tries its best with the limited resources made available to it. I love the premise on how these demons came to be and how Jessica is affected by their possession. The mark on her skin progressively growing stronger to symbolize their growing power is a great source of suspense and tension, since they don’t know what will put her over the edge.
There are some moments where the film does shine. I appreciate the decision to not show the demons all too much, it keeps the film mysterious and engaging. The effects also aren’t too bad, either. It’s wrapped together with sleek visuals, that while they don’t feel to 70s or 80s inspired, are at least pretty to look at and enjoy. It’s a shame that They Reach didn’t lean heavily on its atmosphere and instead focused on lame comedy, because it could have been a solid straight horror. Don’t even get me started on the ending, which I absolutely hated!
Unfortunately, that is where most of the magic ends. The trio of kids hop from place-to-place unconvincingly pleading with adults to hear them out when they say they the town is in danger. For some reason, it takes little cajoling for them to get help, which feels too convenient. Plot points are brought up and dropped just as quickly. What happened to mother? Why did they introduce the mean kids only to never see them again? There are several moments like these that don’t feel wholly explained or put-together. Furthermore, the dialogue is absolutely cringeworthy. It is astounding how everyone speaks to each other. It just doesn’t feel natural at all.
I also couldn’t get behind any of the characters. The main character, Jessica, is the epitome of the “not like other girls” trope and it gets old quickly. We get it. She’s a nerd. That alone doesn’t make her special or interesting! The other kids are annoying but not terribly so, and still within the realm of reality. The sheriff and father yell more than emote, but their screen time is pretty limited so it’s not that hard to ignore. Overall, the kid actors seem to be having a good time, so that at least makes up for it.
What is billed as a love letter to eighties filmmaking, feels more like a cash in on the recent revival of nostalgia horror. There’s certainly a space for new films to carve out a name for themselves, but They Reach tries too hard and doesn’t have half the charm or finesse of its contemporaries. With a more polished script and capable actors, They Reach would have a chance at being a solid addition of rose-colored horror to the 2020s.
Overall Score? 4/10