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Review: They Reach (2020)

In 1969 parapsychologists Dr. Mark Quinnley (Damian Vines) and his son Alex (Taylor Bartle) are called in to try to help a boy who appears possessed. The attempt fails but is recorded on a tape recorder. Thus begins They Reach, the debut feature from director Sylas Dall and co-writer Bry Troyer. It’s another attempt to tap into the vibe of Stranger Things, how well does it succeed?

The story picks up ten years later. The Daniels family has just lost its son. John (Ash Calder, Angry Asian Girl Vs. Bully, Empathy for the Devil) and Grace (Elizabeth Rhoades, Beloved Beast, Die’ced) are trying to stay strong for their 13-year-old daughter Jessica (Mary Madeline Roe, Last Seen in Idaho, The Ice Cream Date) but it isn’t helping.

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Poking around in the local second-hand store, Jessica finds a familiar-looking tape recorder. She also proceeds to spill blood on it after an accident in her father’s workshop. Jess and her friend’s Cheddar (Eden Campbell, The Mortuary Collection, Fear Street: Part Two – 1978) and Sam (Morgan Chandler, Silence) are going to have to put their science fair project aside and take up demon-hunting instead.

They Reach is, as you can probably guess, aimed at a youngish audience. Dall and Bry cite films like The Goonies, Stand By Me, Monster Squad and Stephen King in general as influences on the film. And that does give you a pretty good idea of where the film is at. Only with the state of Washington replacing King’s beloved Maine.

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However, like another retro horror film centred around teens, Summer of ‘84, They Reach sometimes seems unsure of just what age group it was aiming at. There’s everything from the cranky librarian who turns out to be a witch. And of course, she’s full of the information the kids need. At another, someone peels their own face off. I’m certainly not complaining, but it does feel a bit out of place in a film about 13-year-old ghostbusters. The effects look to be mostly practical and include the previously mentioned facial peel, impalement, decapitation and, of course, the demon itself. They’re all fairly well done and most of the deaths are effective.

Something else They Reach does well is recreating its setting. Loud cars with big V8s, walkie-talkies, Polaroid cameras and phones mounted on walls. And an Ellen Ripley poster on Jess’s bedroom wall. The songs on the soundtrack, while they sound right for the time, are, with one exception, modern tracks by 70s styled bands. While they sounded right they annoyed me, because music in 1979, to me, meant Blue Oyster Cult, AC/DC, The Ramones, The Clash etc. Not the cheesy soft rock that they used. Even 13-year-old me would have turned that shit off.

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But that’s really the only big complaint I have about They Reach. The ending will bother some viewers, and I can see why. I can also see why they went in the direction they did. Your reaction will come down to a matter of preference.

In the end, They Reach is actually a fun film, with plenty of jumps, some gore and no deeper meanings or messages, And that’s something I’ve been missing lately.

Uncorked Entertainment will release They Reach on November 3rd. You can check the film’s Facebook page for more information.

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