09th Jun2020

‘They Reach’ VOD Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Mary Madaline Roe, Morgan Chandler, Eden Campbell, Kyan Zielinski, Elizabeth Rhoades, Ash Calder, Frederick Floyd, Taylor Bartle, Damian Vines, Adrienne Jordan, Steffanie Foster Gustafson, Eric Schmidt, Kara Puerschner, Tyler Time, Tony Gee | Written by Sylas Dall, Bry Troyer | Directed by Sylas Dall

Opening in 1969, They Reach sees father and son supernatural investigators Dr. Mark Quinnley and Alex Quinnley tackle the demonic possession of a child in the basement of his family home. Unsuccessful in their attempt, the entire incident is caught on tape… Jump forward ten years and a young girl, Jessica, stumbles upon the reel-to-reel tape player in a junk store and takes it home to fix. Accidentally cutting her hand and bleeding out onto the machine, she unknowingly unleashes a demonic entity that haunts her family while slowly dragging Clarkston, the small town where she lives, to hell.

OK, let’s get this out of the way first. As you can see by the poster above (and even moreso in this alternate art), yes, They Reach has a real Stranger Things vibe. But what do you expect? Featuring a group of kids getting wrapped up in a supernatural story will do that for a film. It also feels very much like, given that the film is set in the 70s, a gorier, scarier version of kid-friendly “horror” films like The Monster Squad – only the monster here is a LOT less friendlier than those of the aforementioned film!

The film also has has an interesting take on science versus religion – right from the get-go when the Quinnley’s try to use science to save a possessed child instead of religion, even though they have consulted supernatural texts to uncover what has happened to the boy. The idea that science will save the day continues throughout the film as Jessica is a wiz with electronics – something that will ultimately help her and her friends in her battle with the monster that stalks Clarkston.

Jessica herself is a strong female lead. The character might be a teenager, with the typical parental issues we see in a myriad of movies, but she’s written as a strong-willed, unafraid teenager who doesn’t succumb to teenage pressures and stands on her own two feet. Thankfully she has two great friends in Sam and Cheddar. Speaking of whom, Cheddar is a superb character, played superbly by Eden Campbell – who imbues what is essentially a supporting character, with the kind of fun, quirky attitude to really make the character and Campbell herself stand out from the rest of the cast; embodying the kind of spirit that made sidekicks like Duckie in Pretty in Pink and Data in The Goonies so, so, memorable.

Much like Stranger Things, which also has a cast of kids at its heart, They Reach too is still horrific. In fact even with a central cast of child characters it doesn’t stop They Reach from piling on the gore – its somewhat of a dichotomy in fact… The gore is a little too strong perhaps for the more kid-friendly tale of friendship that is at the core of the film. However without the gore – which is really used to show how horrible, wicked and powerful the evil haunting Clarkston and Jessica is – the impact of what happens to Jessica, her family and her friends might be lost somewhat. We need to see the terror to back up the terror already written into the story to reinforce the danger of the situation Jessica finds herself in.

Ultimately They Reach has something of a cop-out ending, yet it’s one that makes sense given the fact this feels very much like a “kids” movie, the conclusion wraps things up in a warm-hearted way rather than the final girl ending that you might expect from what comes before it. It might disappoint some but it was an ending that left me with the warm and fuzzies… if only to see the friendship between Jessica, Sam and Cheddar back at the forefront of the film once more.

They Reach is out to rent or buy now on Amazon Prime Germany.


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