Directed by: Silas Dall.
Starring: Mary Madeline Roe, Ash Calder, Morgan Chandler, and Eden Campbell.
The newest from writer/director Sylas Dall takes us back to the late 1970’s where we meet Jessica Daniels, a twelve-year-old science nerd who has just lost her older brother and is also feeling pressure from her parents to be "their idea of a normal teenage girl." With that said, in her efforts to get her mind off of her family’s recent tragedy, Jessica wanders into a local second-hand store where she finds a small crate full of odds and ends. Upon taking the crate home & showing her dad, she eventually stumbles upon an old tape recorder (among the odds and ends) that seems to have it’s switches stuck. When Jessica tries to get the recorder open, she ends up cutting her hand and bleeding onto the tape recorder, which eventually heals into a scar that resembles a weird mark (more on that later).
As the film progresses, strange and supernatural events begin to happen all around Jessica’s hometown of Clarkston. Soon enough, it becomes clear to Jessica, her father and her friends, Sam and Cheddar, that the tape recorder was (of course) was not a normal recorder, but was in fact used to record an exorcism and that a demon imprinted itself onto the recording tape. Additionally, they also learn that the weird scar on Jessica’s right hand is the demon’s mark and that it will utilize this mark to possess its host (see Jessica), but not before first dragging the residents of Clarkston to Hell. Therefore in order to stop this from happening, Jessica and her friends use their high IQ’s and amateur inventor skills to find a way to stop the demon.
Overall, THEY REACH is not a bad movie. However, the story itself frequently feels like it can’t decide if it’s going to be a horror movie in the fashion of a Goosebumps story or a variation of Evil Dead. In scenes that would be gory, Dall tones it down, making this a much kid-friendlier horror movie. Now, while this choice is not a bad thing (as young horror fans should have a good jumping off point into genre that isn't too blood-soaked), the film would be far greater if it committed to its tone - one way or the other.
Roe herself does a great job carrying the movie on her young shoulders. Her performance comes off as relatable - i.e. when she tries to decide if she wants to stay a science nerd and geek fan or try to be her parents idea of a regular teenage girl. Who hasn't felt those pressures from their parents as they try to mold them into what they want versus what a young person wants. Roe also does a great job with showing the audience how good she is when she becomes the hero she needs to be to save her town and family from the demons. She really brings a lot to this movie and with a little luck, THEY REACH, could be her jumping off point to bigger projects, just as HALLOWEEN was for a young actress named Jamie Lee Curtis.
Overall grade: B