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If the movie business works in cycles (or circles, depending on how cynical one gets), then 2002's They signals a return to the drive-in fodder of Roger Corman days. They is drawn from the exact same "Night Terrors are real" premise that was the starting point for 2003's Darkness Falls, but They has the shoddiness to convince viewers that it simply was made to steal Falls' theatrical thunder — something Corman would do by making quick knockoffs to get into theaters before expensive Hollywood versions arrived. Whatever the case was in this instance, neither film is particularly good, but this one does have the dubious distinction of being — as a talkbacker might put it — "First!" Presented by Wes Craven (who must get a suitcase of money dropped off at his house every time someone wants to attach his name to crap), Laura Regan stars as Julia, a grad student who's contacted by an old friend (Ethan Embry) who is so afraid of the dark that he kills himself after delivering an incoherent message to her. It turns out that they both had some creepy dreams in their childhood, and now those dreams are coming back to get them in the form of "They," which amount to undefined quasi-Lovecraftian munchkin things that attack you in the dark, and are afraid of light. Banding together with some other "night terror" survivors (including the impossibly attractive Dagmara Dominczyk), the film then puts these people in poorly-lit situations until it reaches a reasonable theatrical running-time (83 minutes with seven minutes of credits) and then stops. To heighten the "afraid of the dark" mood, the whole film is shot with deep shadows, but all that does is make the viewer squint a lot. Directed by Robert Harmon (best known for The Hitcher), it should be noted that the "boo!" scenes work — even if the set-ups (and the rest of the film) don't. Miramax presents They in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (with some good use of surround effects for the jumps). Also included is a less-satisfying alternate ending and sneak-peeks at other Miramax titles. Keep-case.

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