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They Look Like People (2015) & Psychosis

For our Mental Health Awareness series, Ghouls discuss the Psychological bromance film, They Look Like People. Gabe talks about the horrors in phenomenal sound design and what it means to be a good friend. Kat shares the real experiences of someone who suffered from psychosis and how they got through it.

Sources in episode:


According to a study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information

Psychosis from the National Association of Mental Illness

Early Psychosis and Psychosis

Redditors who experience psychosis: What do you do when you feel it coming on? [Serious]”

Ways to Help/Get Help:

7 ways to be a mental health ally

behavioral health crisis intervention services

Crisis Intervention Team (CIT)

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Media from this week's episode:

They Look Like People (2015) Creators: Perry Blackshear

Summary by IMDB: Suspecting that people around him are turning into evil creatures, a troubled man questions whether to protect his only friend from an impending war, or from himself.


They Look Like People: An Inspiring Psychological Bromance Tale

Gabe Castro

RED: Quotes, someone else's words.

Just a BIG SIGH OF RELIEF needed after watching this film. I am so thankful for the portrayal of mental illness in this film. We’ve mentioned many times and will continue to do so in this series that horror has an incredibly unkind relationship with folx with mental illness. Often villainizing them with vague diagnosis. One of the reasons I greatly dislike High Tension is the flimsy mental illness explanation in the end that honestly felt like they were saying that being a lesbian is enough to make you a murderer. We haven’t talked about it here, but Split got some really harsh reviews for it’s portrayal of DID (dissociative identity disorder), something I’ve always found fascinating and totally understand where the anger comes from. You can hear us rant about Midsommar’s poor representation of mental illness in our Mental Illness Representation episode. Kat has also talked at length about how in reality it is often people with mental illnesses that are at risk of being harmed by others or themselves. There are some truly scary moments in this film where I was greatly worried that they would turn our protagonist into a villain or instill fear into the audience towards people with schizophrenia or other mental illnesses that feature psychosis and delusions and I am elated to say this film does not do that.

Here there be spoilers:

The film shows a really authentic friendship. It was awkward, intimate, and honest. The director, Perry Blackshear has even heard it referred to as a “Psychological Bromance” film which is perfect. Following a pair of friends, Wyatt and Christian, we get to see the different viewpoints surrounding a mental break. Whenever we are spending time with Wyatt, we get to experience his delusions and psychosis firsthand. We hear the awful insect-like buzzing that preludes the arrival of the beings that look like people. We feel the suffocating darkness that skews the faces of the ones we care about. And we listen to the phone calls from the mysterious voice that encourages us, inviting us to believe we are special - the chosen one and we have been tasked with protecting mankind. We also see Wyatt waver in this reality. In a conversation with his therapist (that may or may not have actually happened - who has therapy sessions in the middle of nowhere?), he brushes off his symptoms and says, “I don’t think I have schizophrenia. I researched it and it doesn’t fit.” only to then follow this up with sharing his delusions that he isn’t 100% certain he should believe but what if it’s real?

In an interview with Scream Magazine THEY LOOK LIKE PEOPLE: An Interview with Perry Blackshear - THE HORROR ENTERTAINMENT MAGAZINE, talked about the dichotomous relationship between knowing something may not be real but preparing for it anyway, just in case, I took a lot of inspiration from the movie Take Shelter which is a wonderful film...He goes and gets checked out at a psychiatrist’s office with his daughter I believe because he knows that he might be in trouble but then at the same time on the way back home he goes and buys canned goods for his bunker. It is those simultaneously knowing that he might be crazy but still doing the things he has to do because what if he was not. I thought this was so complicated and confusing.

The film is a bit voyeuristic. It’s not an outright found footage film but the lack of non-diegetic music or odd camera techniques gives the viewer a deeper understanding of the events. Audio plays an important role in livening up this film. It was the first thing I noticed when watching, there was no music to push me forward or to tell me what to feel. I had to dwell in the moments alongside the characters and feel my own feelings. We spend time with friend Christian, listening to his motivational ASMR recordings. These are his crutch. We even have an uncomfortable yet charming crispy whisper conversation between him and his boss/crush, Mara. On the other hand, with Wyatt the buzzing and the whispers indicate uncertainty, fear and impending danger.

The friendship is the best part of this film. We get to see the care and compassion between these two. How easily Christian rearranges his life to make room for a friend he hasn’t seen or talked to in so long. He works diligently to ensure Wyatt feels comfortable, included and not like a burden. Even inviting him on his date so he wouldn’t be alone. They face similar life challenges, both having separated from their fiances, working at jobs that don’t bring them joy, and navigating the complex relationship between them and their mental health. Whenever Wyatt explains what's happening or hints at his own uncertainty with reality, Christian takes it well. He digests and processes the information not jumping to conclusions or lashing out. He never tells Wyatt he’s crazy and when he looks to get him help, he offers his own personal experiences with instability as a reason for his understanding and why he should be trusted. Christian is also going through things. His fiance left him and he had been working to be the perfect father. He is incredibly obsessed with what it means to be masculine and he needs constant petting via the ASMR mentioned to motivate him to continue. He even admits to a suicide attempt that led to him seeking help. His approach to Wyatt is the most beautiful part and I was so thankful for it.

Does it appropriately represent the horrors of a mental illness? And does it inspire empathy & compassion towards an individual with this mental illness?

In that same interview with Scream Magazine, THEY LOOK LIKE PEOPLE: An Interview with Perry Blackshear - THE HORROR ENTERTAINMENT MAGAZINE, director Perry Blackshear talks about his inspiration for creating the film,

I did a lot of research into schizophrenia after being inspired by this video … about a virtual reality si