The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Shudder] - THEY LIVE IN THE GREY | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Shudder] - THEY LIVE IN THE GREY

They Live in the Grey review
A clairvoyant Child Protection Services agent investigates a case involving a malevolent and abusive spirit.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Abel Vang, Burlee Vang

Starring: Michelle Krusiec, Madelyn Grace, Ken Kirby, Ellen Wroe, JR Cacia

They Live in the Grey poster

Jamie Lee Curtis has been the subject of much mockery for her one track obsession with calling the recent lame-brained reboots of the Halloween franchise studies in "trauma." Every interviewer who asks Ms Curtis what these movies are about receives the same reductive answer – "It's about trauma." Some wag even made a hilarious YouTube montage of every time the actress mentioned the T-word in an interview. If Curtis had starred in the Vang brothers' They Live in the Grey, she would no doubt be telling anyone who would listen that the film is about "grief."

They Live in the Grey review

There sure is a lot of grief in They Live in the Grey, but it's not good grief, just a shallow representation of that mental state. The movie piles on the misery from the start, when we witness a failed suicide attempt by our protagonist, Child Protection Services agent Claire (Michelle Krusiec). Claire is tormented by the loss of her son Lucas, but also by the ghosts she sees everywhere she turns. Lucas's death ended her marriage to her police officer husband (Ken Kirby), who is trying his best to get Claire to talk about her…grief.

It seems a little hard to believe that CPS would keep someone as noticeably emotionally damaged as Claire under their employ, but this movie isn't exactly an accurate representation of how such agencies function. Claire finds herself assigned the task of investigating a young girl, Sophie (Madelyn Grace, whom you might have seen in the awful sequel Don’t Breathe 2), whose parents – Audrey (Ellen Wroe) and Giles (JR Cacia) – are suspected of causing her physical harm. Claire first notices a scar on the child's face, which Audrey claims is the result of a fall from a skateboard. Claire's suspicions of Sophie's parents are ended when she encounters the ghost of a malevolent young woman in the family's home, and she commits herself to exorcising the ghost and allowing Sophie to remain with her parents.

They Live in the Grey review

I suspect Krusiec is a perfectly talented actress, but it's difficult to tell from her one-note performance here. Her directors appear to have simply instructed her to look miserable throughout, and her performance consists of the sort of closed faced mannerisms an actor might nail after a semester at performing arts school.

The Vangs' obsession with their heroine's grief makes for a dreary and patience testing film that runs at a ridiculous length of over two hours. The movie has the look and feel of those later X-Files episodes were Mulder stopped wise-cracking and the show began to take itself too seriously. There have been some great horror movies about grief, but They Live in the Dark is less Don’t Look Now, more Don’t Watch Tonight. It's not so much about grief as simply a portrait of grief. The Vangs point their camera at a grieving mother for two hours, but they fail to say anything about grief.

They Live in the Grey review

The only notable element of their film is how it's set in an Asian-American milieu, where perhaps feelings aren't expressed as openly as they might be among Black, White or Latin groups, and where there's a notable absence of any religious elements. Yet while Claire keeps her feelings to herself, the film doesn't use any of the tools of cinema to extract those feelings and convey them to the audience through images. Instead we just get a bunch of sub-Sixth Sense ghostly encounters. One of these involves a police officer killed in the line of duty who keeps asking Claire "What day is it?" After the two-plus hours of dreariness that is They Live in the Grey, it's a question you may well find yourself asking.

They Live in the Grey
 is on Shudder from February 17th.

2022 movie reviews