They Reach Brims with Retro Charm

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They Reach BD

Ahhhh, sweet nostalgia. To yearn for those simple, bygone days of Camaros with cassette decks, high school science projects and hopeless crushes, of listening to Heart LP’s and praying a freshly-resurrected demonic entity doesn’t possess your best friend. Who could forget such blood-splattered innocence?

That’s the vibe Uncork’d Entertainment fosters with their latest production, They Reach, a cinematic love letter to the halcyon horror of yore, a time when practical effects, one-liners, and over-the-top plots were beloved silver screen requirements. It’s 1979, and awkward teenager Jessica (Mary Madeline Roe, in her first starring role) suffers in the recent shadow of her football-hero brother’s untimely death, and has trouble fitting in, both at school and with her equally-awkward-in-his-own-way father, John (Ash Calder). Her pastimes revolve around garage-created science experiments and sifting through thrift stores, and it’s the latter hobby that serves up sinister shenanigans and puts a mark on her hand that might spell doom for her and everyone in town.

As Jessica becomes the eye of an ever-intensifying otherworldly hurricane, only her two friends, lovable schlub Sam (Morgan Chandler) and goofy corndog-eating cornball Cheddar (Eden Campbell) are aware of the infernal forces at work, but when Jessica’s mother, Grace (Elizabeth Rhoades) disappears and John is arrested, they ultimately find help in Alex Quinnley (Taylor Bartle), a priest haunted by his tragic involvement in the demon’s first foray into the world a decade earlier. He alone knows the dark secret to defeat The Beast, but is the sacrifice worth the price?

Writer/director Sylas Dall infuses the proceedings with equal parts tenderness and tension, and viewers interested solely in giggle-inducing gore may find the opening half hour, with its stridently adolescent conversations about rock bands, school dances and comic books, too purposely slow and sentimental. Yet the character-building serves to enhance what follows, and with all good movies of this ilk, once the malevolent forces break from their acosmic bonds the ride doesn’t stop until the heartbreaking, bittersweet end. Amid the jokes and ample bloodshed, They Reach abounds with intimate themes about the bonds of friendship and the lengths a parent will go to protect their children. John defies the police, Quinnley’s warnings and even Jessica herself in his quest to ensure his daughter’s survival, and in the process learns that the two share stronger similarities than he initially assumed.

By invoking such classics as The Evil Dead (right down to the demonic tape player), The Exorcist and even such bicycle-riding, non-terror fare such as E.T. and  The Goonies, They Reach brims with a shiny new retro charm; half the audience’s enjoyment lies in picking out which treasured movie influenced what scene, and they can rest assured that despite its referential nature, it’s not a film that winks at the audience so much as one that seeks to tear out their hearts. There’s an underlying seriousness to even the most laugh-out-loud segments, and the flashback featuring Quinnley’s original encounter with the sanguinum demonium is as harrowing as horror gets. 

A strong comparison to the series Stranger Things is unavoidable, and coupled with a slightly-disappointing post-climax loop of an ending it serves as the only true drawback to what is otherwise an immensely entertaining film filled with head-popping humor that’s likely to become a cult classic which viewers will watch (and re-watch) with a contented smile.

I give They Reach a solid 4 (out of 5) on my Fang Scale.

(BONUS CONTENT: Critical Blast interviews the cast and crew in the video below!)

4.0 / 5.0