With a title like They Live in the Grey, one might expect a crossover sequel where a famous wrestler with sunglasses fights wolves with Liam Neeson. Awesome as that may sound, the latest Shudder original is far from it, and in fact it’s far better. Equally chilling and compelling, They Live in a Grey dabbles in supernatural horror while exploring very relatable themes of grief, trauma, and abuse.
Family in Peril
We follow social worker Claire (Michelle Krusiec) as her testimony results in a mentally ill mother losing custody of her children to the foster system. Granted she was just doing her job in reporting the unsafe home environment, but being a mother who tragically lost her own child, Claire is absolutely gutted at the idea that she played a role in this.
Even from the start, Claire is dealing with some very potent (internal) demons, and as time goes on these demons become much more external in nature. As she takes another case of suspected physical abuse, the home visit is tense to say the least.
The little girl Sophie (Madelyn Grace of Don’t Breathe 2 fame) opens up a bit to Claire in private, and Claire begins to realize that there’s something going on in the house. Something far more sinister and potent than an abusive parent.
Much like Elise from Insidious, Lorraine Warren from The Conjuring, and young Cole from The Sixth Sense, Claire seems to be “blessed” with the gift of seeing things that others can’t. As she tries to help Sophie, her own “gift” begins to assault her day and night with genuinely horrifying visions of the dead and the absolute agony they remain in.
The biggest strength of They Live in the Grey is that these scenes are legitimately terrifying. It uses jump scares sparingly and effectively, and the terror comes not from being startled, but from how disturbing and intense the scenes become.
We get a fallen police officer with a visible bullet wound in her head pleading with Claire to make it so she’s not dead. This may have just happened to her, or more disturbingly, she may be trapped in some loop reliving and rediscovering her death over and over. The more you think about it, the more it haunts you to your core and that’s very much the point.
Terrifying as these visions can be, Claire begins to find that the only way to find peace and reconcile with her own tragic past is to be a beacon of help to those who need it. Michelle Krusiec turns in an amazing performance as we watch her arc go from terrified, to losing her mind entirely, to finding her own inner strength.
On the surface, these supernatural specters come off as scary, but the movie reminds us of the underlying tragedy and remorse present in any ghost story. And it tows the line perfectly between eliciting fear from the audience, followed by sympathy and compassion.
They Live in the Grey manages to be incredibly creepy and unsettling, while also giving us a compelling character drama we can all relate to. It may be a Shudder Original, but it’s evidence of how movies released to streaming can be just as good as something like Insidious (which I would put this movie right up with). At the end of every year, we compile a list of the top 10 best Shudder Originals, and we can confidently predict that this movie will be on that list for 2022!
What did you think of They Live in the Grey? Let us know in the comments!