THEY LIVE IN GREY Key Art | ©2022 Shudder

THEY LIVE IN THE GREY Key Art | ©2022 Shudder

Rating: Not Rated
Stars: Michelle Krusiec, Ken Kirby, Ellen Wroe, Madelyn Grace, Mercedes Manning, J.R. Cacia, Willie S. Hosea, Audrey Moore, Jaden Tran
Writers: The Vang Brothers (Burlee Vang & Abel Vang)
Directors: The Vang Brothers (Abel Vang & Burlee Vang)
Distributor: Shudder
Release Date: February 17, 2022

THEY LIVE IN THE GREY refers to ghosts. It likewise refers to the living, who are haunted not only by the dead, but also by their own grief and rage.

Written and directed by the Vang Brothers (Burlee and Abel), THEY LIVE IN THE GREY starts with shots of desolate fields, then moves indoors to show up a small statue of the Pieta.

We’re in Fresno, where we meet Claire Yang (Michelle Krusiec) during her unsuccessful suicide attempt. Claire is a social worker who sees ghosts. She is also estranged from her husband, police officer Peter (Ken Kirby), but neither of these is the source of her despair.

Claire and Peter are mourning the death of their child. Peter wants to try to resume their lives together, but Claire is barely able to function. It doesn’t help that she is accosted by alarming spirits wherever she goes.

Claire is assigned to the case of Sophie Lang (Madelyn Grace), a young girl. School authorities suspect that Sophie is being abused by one of her parents.

When Claire does a home visit, the Langs seem normal enough. Mom Audrey (Ellen Wroe) is a bored travel agent; dad Giles (J.R. Cacia) works at a mortgage company. Their house, however, is very haunted, as the Langs are all too aware.

THEY LIVE IN THE GREY is well-written, with a great third-act twist. The Vang Brothers do a strong job of weaving together supernatural tension and emotional drama, helped enormously by Krusiec’s powerful performance. Krusiec gives us the full weight of Claire’s pain and fear, along with her intelligence, and her warmth and wit in flashbacks to better days.

The film also merits a shout-out for an uncommonly fine sound mix. In some scenes, it seems as though music and certain effects are coming from the listener’s environment, rather than the soundtrack (this reviewer actually paused the screener at one point to double-check that this was the case).

Even so, THEY LIVE IN THE GREY has its slow sections. This is an unusual Shudder offering, as it clocks in at just over two hours. The filmmakers take longer than is necessary to emphasize Claire’s numbness; a little trimming might have been warranted.

Neither good nor bad but simply intriguing is the fact that the Vang Brothers have made a movie in which the main characters are the Yangs and the Langs. Since nobody says the characters’ surnames aloud at the same time (and certainly don’t mention the filmmakers), this only registers after the fact, but it would be interesting to know if this was intentional.

THEY LIVE IN THE GREY might be a little leisurely in its pace, but between its scares, its curveballs, and its sincere emotion, it packs a punch.

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