They Wait DVD review

An unoriginal plot yields to an inventive approach and a sackful of shivers...

Spooky stuff.

Returning to North America for a funeral after living for several years in Shanghai, Sarah (Jaime King) and Jason (Terry Chen) find that their son Sam (Regan Oey) is starting to act strangely. And who can blame him, given that he’s seeing ghosts? After he becomes seriously ill, Sarah learns that he is in the grip of a spirit hell-bent on vengeance – and if they don’t do what it wants, he will die at the end of the month.

Trouble is, the end of the month is twenty-four hours away. Plunged into a bizarre world where cultural pressure and an unseen terror prove equally disturbing, Sarah is forced into risking her own life in an effort to save her son’s, and possibly a few others in the bargain.

In the current climate of torture porn and remakes of 70s ‘nasties’, it’s nice to see a survival horror with no illusions – it knows what boxes it has to tick and manages them all with panache, thanks to solid acting, nice camerawork and a proper sense of suspenseful timing. You’ll know exactly when they want you to jump and do it anyway; while there are only a couple of out-and-out scares you’ll be thoroughly unnerved from beginning to end.

Director Ernie Barbarash, better known for production roles on American Psycho and the sequels to Cube, clearly knows how to wring every last bit of tension from a seemingly unpromising package. The plot is hardly original, but guess what’s going on and you’ll be rewarded with an ending that contains an appropriately macabre discovery and a surprising death. Any gore or unpleasantness is avoided in favour of good old-fashioned creepiness, something which works in the film’s favour all the way through, and when the horror arrives is works far better as a result. Having recently seen Eden Lake, with its relentless blood and nasty tricks, They Wait feels like a genuine ‘horror’ that will have you smiling in that slightly twisted way that accompanies trying not to hide behind the sofa cushions.

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It will be too slow for some, while others won’t appreciate its lack of ‘adult’ content, but they would perhaps be missing the point. This isn’t an ultra-violent, grim or brutal film but an exercise in making the audience’s blood run cold in the style of Ringu and Premonition. Put the lights out and things could get very uncomfortable. Even better, it doesn’t pretend to be serious – happily admitting in the making-of that it’s “pure fun, popcorn entertainment”. It’s a pity that the extras show this up, as the documentary and trailer are barely worth the disc space (don’t watch either before the film unless you want every surprise to be given away). 

If you’re into the current Last House on the Left revival, this won’t be your thing. But for anyone who’s after a well-made flick with the ‘silly grin’ factor, this is worth picking up.

Film:

4 stars
Extras:
2 stars

They Wait is out now.

Rating:

4 out of 5