In They Live in the Grey, a social worker investigating a child abuse case discovers that a supernatural entity is tormenting the family. To stop the parents from losing custody of their child, she must confront her fears and use her clairvoyance to stop the malevolent force.

They Live in the Grey Review

Overall, They Live in the Grey is a pretty solid supernatural horror film. It kicks off surprisingly intensely, and then does a nice job balancing its slower, suspense-building and emotional moments with its jump scares and big thrills. I felt invested in both Claire’s (Michelle Krusiec) work helping the troubled family, and her personal emotional journey.

The past will haunt you

They Live in the Grey is a horror movie heavily rooted in emotion, which can be hit or miss. And though some aspects of the film don’t quite land when they should, all in all the emotional journey of They Live in the Grey really adds to the film.

Naturally, at the heart of this emotional conflict is our supernaturally-tormented family. Little Sophie’s (Madelyn Grace) increasing injuries have not gone unnoticed by her school. After they contact CPS, Claire arrives to investigate the case. But instead of evidence against Sophie’s parents or a confirmation that the girl really is sporting skateboarding injuries, Claire is instead confronted by a dark force from beyond the grave.

Neither Claire nor Sophie’s parents can exactly file a claim saying, “It’s not us, it’s the ghost!”, putting everyone in a complicated predicament. To make matters worse, Claire doesn’t want to know about the ghost in the house anyways. We come to realize she’s tormented by apparitions, constantly bombarded by the undead. Angry and confused, they take out their frustrations on Claire, the only one who can see them. 

They Live in the Grey - Photo Credit: Shudder

Claire’s clairvoyance, combined with an intense personal loss, has driven a wedge between her and her husband. Just another weight piling up on the poor woman. I have to say, I genuinely felt for Claire and how miserable her life seemed. Krusiec does great work in the role, delivering a performance that taps into Claire’s fear, grief, and empathy in turn. The horror in They Live in the Grey is good, but it’s the story’s strong emotional resonance that helps elevate it.

Unfortunate cinematography undercuts some great scenes

One of the biggest drawbacks of They Live in the Grey is its overly-stylized cinematography. The Vang Brothers kept repeatedly using these super-distant shots, often from the ceiling looking down on the characters, and it drove me bonkers the whole time.

My best guess is this was intended to be eerie and atmospheric – like a voyeuristic, someone’s-secretly-watching kind of thing. Which can totally work for a horror movie like this one! But instead of a far-away POV shot (like through the eyes of something watching from a distance), it gave more of a “security camera footage” vibe. Complete with squinting what’s going on? Is something happening down there? I can’t tell! energy.

These shots would linger long past their welcome, and really took me out of the whole experience. Worse still, they were often used during some of the film’s most emotional moments. Not being able to properly see your actors actually acting when you want the audience to feel their pain simply doesn’t work. Horror movies can absolutely be artistically shot, but They Live in the Grey was clearly trying too hard in this area.

Michelle Krusiec as Claire Yang - They Live in the Grey - Photo Credit: Shudder

Worth a watch

Despite my frustration with some of the camera work, They Live in the Grey is definitely a movie worth watching. It’s a well-made paranormal horror flick with a surprising level of emotional depth. The jump scares and thrills deliver, but the film is nicely balanced with its quiet, more suspenseful moments.

They Live in the Grey starts streaming on Shudder February 17.

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