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They Reach Movie Review: A Teen Horror with Potential

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BY November 10, 2020
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In the wake of Stranger Things, it’s a, well, stranger thing that we haven’t seen more TV shows and movies in that vein. Well, one movie aims to fill that gap. And in our review of the movie They Reach, we’ll find out if they succeeded.

They Reach for a Plot Summary

they reach movie review image via Uncork’d Entertainment

It’s 1979 and 13-year-old Jessica Daniels (Mary Madaline Roe) is looking for distraction. Her older brother has just died, so she’s throwing herself into preparation for the upcoming science fair. There’s also a dance coming up, but science geek Jessica is less interested in that.

Her parents, mom Grace (Elizabeth Rhoades) and dad John (Ash Calder), find her interests confounding. However, they don’t really judge her for being more into gadgets than girly stuff. So when she brings home an old cassette player she found at a junk shop, neither bats an eye.

They should, though. Because as we know from the opening prologue, that tape player’s seen some stuff. It’s one of the few survivors of an attempted exorcism. And apparently, it was also the getaway car for whatever was wreaking demonic havoc back then. And what do you know? One little accident, Jessica’s bleeding into the player, and something wakes up.

The Stranger Elephant in the Room

they reach movie review image via Uncork’d Entertainment

While the movie and some viewers have linked this film to the aforementioned Stranger Things, as well as The Goonies, I didn’t really see it. For one thing, They Reach focuses on only three kids, not the respective gaggles in the other works. And for another, the subject matter is markedly different.

While Stranger Things deal with invaders to our dimension, it obviously lacks the religious element of demonic conquest. And The Goonies, of course, is just about kids trying to find treasure (and evade criminals). If I had to name a more fitting analogue, then I’d compare They Reach to The Gate.  The 1987 horror flick, which you can rent from services like Vudu, is about two young teens who accidentally open a gate to hell. Whoopsy-do!

They Reach: The Movie Review

Directed by Sylas Dall, from a script he wrote with Bry Troyer, They Reach is Dall’s feature debut. And overall, it’s a promising effort. It’s a pretty good movie, but there are a few things that keep it from being as great as it could be.

For example, let’s start with the characterization. I know this is a teen horror comedy, but still. It would have been better to have a deeper understanding of some of the adult characters. As it is, it’s thin.

they reach movie review image via Uncork’d Entertainment

We have a better handle on the kids, and that’s really where this movie shines. Well, Cheddar is really where this movie shines. Roe and Morgan Chandler, as her friend Sam, are fine enough. But Eden Campbell as Cheddar, their other friend, was my favorite. Cheddar is an atypical role, a teenage girl who’s quite comfortable in being a giant weirdo. But she’s not trying to be weird–she just is, and she revels in it. It’s a bright and appealing performance, and probably my favorite thing about the movie.

As for the adult performances, they’re more of a mixed bag. Some of them are restrained and believable and others are, let’s just say, more over the top. The cop characters, in particular, feel like they came from a different movie.

In addition, the plot is a little muddled at times. For instance, if we count the demonic entity as a character, then we never quite know what exactly it wants. (Reach out and touch faith?) With that in mind, the final act of the film would be more effective if they’d built up a stronger story leading up to it.

Kid-Tested, Parent-Approved

Overall, though, as I said, it shows a lot of potential. Although a little rough around the edges, this could very easily find an eager audience. And one place it could do well is with kids. As with the recent Come Play, it wouldn’t be a bad introduction to horror for younger viewers, especially those who are interested in the Conjuring Cinematic Universe.

Most of the violent stuff, for example, happens offscreen. (There is a decent amount of blood onscreen, but it’s always coming from out of the frame.) I didn’t love that, but parents might. And their kids will like the realistic and real-looking kids at the center of this film. But watch the trailer and decide for yourself.

They Reach is out now on DVD, Blu-Ray, and on demand on a wide variety of services, including YouTube.

Let us know what you think of our review of the movie They Reach. What’s your favorite kid-focused horror? Share your thoughts in the comments or on our social media.

featured image via Uncork’d Entertainment

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Salomé Gonstad is a freelance writer who grew up in the swampy wilds of south Alabama. She now splits her time between the Appalachian wilds (of Alabama) and the considerably more refined streets of New York City. When she's not yelling about pop culture on the internet, she's working on a supernatural thriller about her hometown. Also, we're pretty sure she's a werewolf. Email her at salome@comicyears.com.

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