They Reach

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
They Reach Movie Poster Image
Horror violence, cursing in Stranger Things wannabe.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 87 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Staying true to yourself. Not conforming to outdated and limiting gender roles, particularly as it pertains to girls with mechanical inclinations. 

Positive Role Models

Jessica enjoys science as well as fixing and creating mechanical gadgetry, but her mother in particular discourages her in this pursuit, and wants her to take on more "feminine" hobbies like sewing; Jessica learns to be true to herself and ignore such limiting beliefs about gender roles. 


 Blood and gore. Jump scares. Character killed when head severed from her body; blood and gore. Possessed boy shot and killed at close range. Spear through the chest. Gunshots. Characters dragged to their deaths by a mysterious force. After one of the killings, blood explodes into the face of a police officer. Deep cut in the hand while trying to repair an old tape recorder; blood. 


Upon introduction, a middle-aged librarian tells a young teen, "You can call me sugar mama in about eight years."


"F--k" used several times. Also: "a--hole," "s--t," "goddammit," "damn," "hell." 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Cigarette smoking. Beer drinking. Librarian smokes marijuana. Reference to Quaaludes. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that They Reach is a 2020 horror adventure set in the 1970s in which a trio of teens must contend with evil forces unleashed from an old tape recorder. Horror movie violence throughout, including a severed head, spear through the chest, and blood splatter on the face of a police officer. In a flashback scene, a child is shot and killed at close range. A deep cut in the hand is graphically shown; blood. Regular use of profanity, including "f--k." Marijuana smoking, cigarette smoking, beer drinking, all by adults. A middle-aged librarian tells a teen boy that "you can call me sugar mama in about eight years." A secondary story concerns the untimely passing of the lead character's older brother before the action of the movie begins. On the positive side, the movie's lead character is a teen girl with mechanical inclinations and an interest in science who's discouraged from doing this by her mother, who adheres to traditional and outdated gender roles. The lead character learns to be true to herself and her interests. 

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What's the story?

In THEY REACH, Jessica is a teen girl misfit in a small town mourning with her family the untimely passing of her popular older brother. While browsing an old resale shop, she finds a box of free items and takes it home. Inside, she finds an old tape recorder. While trying to repair it with her dad, she cuts her hand, getting blood inside the recorder. Soon, while hanging out with her fellow quirky friends Sam and Cheddar, Jessica begins to have nightmarish visions. Meanwhile, the cut on her hand seems to be growing larger. Jessica seems to have unknowingly conjured an evil spirit that's determined to destroy their town. As her mother disappears under mysterious circumstances and her dad is blamed by the police, Jessica and her friends begin to look into what the symbol on her hand means. Their investigations lead them to a local priest, whose experiences with these malevolent demons from ten years ago brings him on board to stop them. As the demons grow increasingly violent and deadly, Jessica must find a way to stop them, save the lives of her friends, family, and townspeople, and restore peace to the town. 

Is it any good?

They Reach concerns misfit young teens coming of age about forty years ago who inadvertently stumble upon horrifying supernatural forces that threaten to destroy their small town, if not the world. If that sounds similar to Stranger Things, you're not wrong. The Goonies is also an influence, as well as other influences that are worn on the badges of the police officers, broadcast on television as the movie of the week, or as movie posters hanging on the walls of the lead character's bedroom. There's nothing inherently wrong with this -- lots of artists have fun planting these obvious and not-so-obvious allusions to "the classics" in their work -- but in this case, the different moods and themes don't quite mesh, and what emerges as the ultimate influence on the quality of this movie is a lack of funds. 

The low budget, unfortunately, leads to some unintentionally hilarious moments, particularly with the music. The filmmakers clearly couldn't afford the rights to music from 1979 (the closest they can get is a character's gift of a Heart record to his friend/crush while their other friend ironically whispers "Barracuda!"), so while one of the teens is hanging out in her room listening to headphones, the music sounds more like a '90s alternative band trying and not succeeding at sounding like The Velvet Underground instead of the real thing. This musical disconnect is a frequent occurrence in the movie. Also, the acting, across the board, isn't the best. All of this would be okay in the same way other low-budget movies can still work despite low budgets and flat acting, but the uneven story doesn't quite work with the coming-of-age aspects and the supernatural terror, so instead of using Stranger Things as a starting point for an original movie, They Reach comes across as a derivative wannabe. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about horror movie violence. How does the violence in this movie compare to other horror movies you've seen? 

  • Jessica is a teen with mechanical inclinations and a deep interest in science. She's discouraged from pursuing these interests by her parents, who believe that she should engage in more "feminine" pursuits like sewing. How does Jessica respond to this pressure? While this movie is set in 1979, is this still an issue? Why or why not? 

  • What other movies and television shows did this movie borrow from? What were some of the ways the movie wore its influences on its sleeve? 

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love horror

Themes & Topics

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