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The plot in a nutshell
The boogie man comes at night - we all know that.  And for kids with the most extreme form of nightmares, often called 'night terrors', he does more than stop by for a little late night chit chat.  'They' mark the children, and come back for them as adults.

Such is the fate of our heroine, Julia Lund.  As a child, she and her best friend Billy were plagued by night terrors, and now almost 20 years later, they're back.  But what do 'they' want?

Relatively Spoiler Free Thoughts
All movies borrow from classic stories, books and other films.  It's impossible not to, but occasionally there's a film that takes so much from others that it becomes nothing more than a montage of clips.  Unfortunately for Wes Craven, that's what 'They' turns out to be.

Julia, the main character, is played by Laura Regan.  I thought I recognized her, so I did a quick IMDB search.  It showed she was the young version of Audrey in Unbreakable.  I was surprised that Star Wars Attack of the Clones was NOT on her resume, since I was positive she had played Taun We.  This woman has the longest neck I have ever seen, and her small shoulders and even smaller head do nothing to shake the impression that her mother had an unnatural relationship with a giraffe.  It's never a good sign when a horror film can't get you past marveling at the length of an actors neck.

You will most likely recognize two other actors from the film, Marc Blucas who plays her boyfriend, and Jon Abrahams who plays her friend from childhood, Billy.  Blucas spent a year dealing with the manic depressive nature of Buffy Sommers, while Abrahams spent last year dealing with the manic depressive nature of high school students, teachers and administrators on Boston Public.  For the trivia buffs, the scary looking little boy who plays Billy in the flashback sequences also is the voice of Nemo in the new Finding Nemo film from Pixar.

The acting isn't bad, but they are given little to nothing to work with.  Other than Julia, we get little character development, and very little reason to care.  On top of that, there are several scenes that are clearly meant to imply that Julia is not stable, but the film never really touches on that possibility or makes it clear.  The alternate ending that's on the DVD makes far more sense of the film and the plot, and goes a long way to explaining why such a tangled mess made it to the screen.  It's pretty obvious that the alternate ending was the one they had planned for, shot for, and edited for - and then got dumped.  While the final ending is interesting, it doesn't make any real sense in the context of the rest of the movie.

The effects are fine, but many of the scenes borrow so heavily from other films that it actually gets annoying.  When Terry, another young woman suffering the same problems as Julia, removes the grill from the vent in her loft, sticks her whole upper body inside (damn big vents), it was pretty obvious they just had to fit a scene from Alien in.  Sure enough, she can't get that lighter to quite work...I could almost hear Veronica Cartwright screaming at her to get out.

And so we had weird phone calls, a basement that looked an awful lot like Freddy's furnace room, beasties afraid of the light, and sputtering light bulbs galore.  What we didn't have was any real plot or sensible story.  A great story can make up for many other sins, but great effects and decent acting can't make up for a silly mess like this.

Rating - Skip It
Even die hard fans of horror will find little in this film to interest them.  The alternate ending is certainly more interesting and unique that the one folks saw in the theater, but that doesn't do much to make up for the lack of character or plot development.  I don't expect a movie to spell things out in big letters on a billboard with flashing lights, but there needs to at least be a reason for the actions of the characters.  Here, we get a good idea for a short story turned into a full length film, and it's just too thin to carry the time.  There's a few startling moments strung together with what might have been intended to be story, but there's no payoff in the end.

Spoiler Laden Thoughts
There are a couple plot points I'd like to mention, and they are definitely spoilers if you haven't watched the film.








The movie opens a lot of doors, and never gets around to shutting any of them.  For example, why do 'they' come only to children with night terrors?  Why don't they like the light?  Of course, if they have control over electricity, not liking the light isn't much of a problem, is it?

Why do they not take the children until they are adults?  And what were they doing with her at the end?  Billy said they would be 'eaten', but it looked like Hell to me.  Did he mean they were soul eaters?  And what was with the splinter in the mark?  If they needed it to find them, why could they find her without it?

All this isn't really Craven's fault, because I think he was making the film with the intention of using the alternate ending.  For those that haven't seen the DVD yet, but have seen the movie, the alternate ending shows that Julia was committed at 16, and all that's happened really is part of a psychosis.  There are no beasties, and the other characters - Billy, Terry, the psychiatrist - are all patients at a hospital with her.  Her boyfriend is in reality a doctor at that hospital, and the entire thing is in her mind.

This resolution to the film makes far more sense out of what comes before.  At the beginning there's a mention by her mother on the phone to be sure she's taking her medication, and when she shows up with Blucas all in a tizzy, he tries to make a phone call without her knowledge.  These little clues point to the alternate ending, but with the standard monster-in-the-closet ending that replaced it, none of it makes sense.

Having her trapped in some sort of Hell, about to be eaten, or just perhaps about to become one of 'they', might be more visually interesting, but the alternate ending would have improved the overall film.  When it's all just in somebody's head, it doesn't have to make any sense.  I'm guessing test audiences didn't like it though - they rarely like being taken in like that, particularly when they find out there's nothing as creepy other than reality.

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