They Live in the Gray Review – A Bleak and Ghostly Exploration of Grieving
Claire social worker (Michelle Krusiec) takes child abuse cases more to heart than most lately, as she is still reeling from the loss of her child. His latest mission resembles an open and closed situation of an abusive father. But Claire’s ability to see ghosts makes her uniquely suited to help a family tormented by a malevolent force. They live in the gray sets up a conventional haunted house storyline but rather languidly revels in heartbreak, presenting a dark hallmark without much of a thrill.
Written and directed by Burlee and Abel Vang (Tormented), They live in the gray reveals the whole truth about what happened to Claire’s child and why she grew apart from her husband (Ken Kirby). With a dreary color palette and equally dreary mood, it becomes an immersive journey through depression as Claire’s emotions constantly get her into trouble at work, her emotional walls drive the rift in her marriage, and troubled minds l flood the night.
The Vang brothers capture the hallmarks of depression; Claire’s general apathy, guilt, despair and ever-present grief have a deadly grip on the narrative. So much so that he covers up the central case involving the battered girl Sophie (Don’t breathe 2 Madelyn Grace), exhausted mom Audrey (Ellen Wroe) and a workaholic father (JR Cacia). This yields enough to set up the supernatural activity plaguing the house, prompting Claire to act as she seeks to clear the parents’ name and protect Sophie. Once established, however, Sophie is mothballed in favor of Claire’s suffocating angst.
Without too many scares, except for a few telegraphed ghost attacks, They live in the gray offers no respite from the depressive tone. There is no levity or escape from Claire’s suffering. Claire’s guilt is all-consuming, and the only spark of life comes from Kirby as a desperate husband trying to reconnect and revive his marriage. Krusiec nails every bit of emotional angst, but his character arc reads more like a straight line.
There’s not much meat in this barebones story either. While it is indeed tragic, the beat wanes as he spends long periods in quiet solitude with Claire’s grief. It’s so hyped up that the supernatural elements seem superfluous and underdeveloped. So much so that the climax rushes into its revelations and renders its impact inert, even as it heightens the energy and horror. It doesn’t help that we never get a full picture of anything beyond Claire’s depression; nothing is as complex as Claire’s emotional state. Not Sophie’s family, not Claire’s job and her disappointed boss, and certainly not the ghosts.
The title reads like an intriguing horror movie but ultimately serves as a metaphor for heartbreak, a perfect summary of the movie. The supernatural provokes and pushes Claire forward, but that pales in comparison to her relentless depressive state. Krusiec and Kirby manage to spark deep interest in their characters’ relationship, but beyond that the film is a listless and often indifferent drift through melancholy.
They live in the gray premieres on Shudder on February 17, 2022.