[Review] THEY WAIT IN THE DARK(2022, Popcorn Frights) The Past and Present Haunt a Mother and Her Son in Patrick Rea’s Latest

Patrick Rea has a way of emphasizing the drama between characters in his horror features, and his latest effort They Wait in the Dark is no exception. The characters and their dialogue are intriguingly written and performed, making for a film that successfully builds investment in its characters before taking viewers down some quite unexpected, often eerie paths.

Amy (Sarah McGuire) and her young son Adrian (Patrick McGee) are on the road, sleeping in gas stations and motel rooms as they try to escape Amy’s abusive partner and Adrian’s other mother Judith (Laurie Catherine Winkel). Taking refuge in her empty, rural childhood home that houses some truly dark memories, Amy is reunited with old friend Jenny (Paige Maria), who tries to help out the secretive Amy and Adrian with groceries and camaraderie. When Adrian goes against Amy’s wishes and lights candles around a pentagram in the house’s basement, a wicked presence makes itself known, changing Amy’s behavior, as Judith does her best to track down her two escaped family members.

Writer/director Rea (I Am Lisa; Arbor Demon; Nailbiter) is adept at penning realistic dialogue, and blending drama with the otherworldly. They Wait in the Dark continues this trend, as he provides fragments about Amy’s present and past sparingly but continuously as the story moves forth, with the relationship between Amy and Adrian feeling quite believable. As multiple threats to the pair rise, the tension and mystery both build in a gripping manner.

McGuire leads a solid cast, giving an arresting performance as a troubled woman on the run. Winkel shines in her supporting role as the tough, determined Judith, and newcomers Maria and McGee acquit themselves well in their debut roles. 

Rea is a prolific filmmaker who works in multiple genres. I Am Lisa may be his best known horror feature so far, and They Wait in the Dark is a thrilling effort that should widen his reputation even further.

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

They Wait in the Dark screens as part of Popcorn Frights, which takes place as a hybrid event, in person in Miami and Fort Lauderdale and with a virtual program online, from August 11–August 21, 2022. For more information, visit https://popcornfrights.com/.

Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5.

He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Horror Fuel, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right.

A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.