Spoiler-Free Reviews: “They’re Here” and “The Hongfu Hotel” (Tribeca Festival 2024)

June 18, 2024

Written by Joseph Perry

Joseph Perry is the Film Festival Editor for Horror Fuel; all film festival related queries and announcements should be sent to him at josephperry@gmail.com. He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Gruesome Magazine, 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.

They’re Here (U.S., 2024)

Codirectors Daniel Claridge and Pacho Velez offer an unusual, thoroughly captivating take on the UFO experiencer phenomenon in their documentary They’re Here. The filmmakers focus on a small group of New Yorkers who claim to have had close encounters with extraterrestrial crafts and sometimes their occupants. Interview subjects include Cookie, a woman who claims to have been abducted by aliens multiple times; Twon, a stand-up comedian who bombs telling jokes about extraterrestrials; Dave, who made the local news by allegedly filming a UFO on his cell phone while under the influence of mushrooms; and Steve, a man who feels that he had a UFO experience but has difficulty remembering any details about the encounter, and who agrees to hypnosis to try to recall what happened. Claridge and Velez approach their subjects with both skepticism and affection, allowing them to fully express themselves knowing that many people don’t believe their stories. They’re Here takes an unusual route in the third act; trying to avoid spoilers here, the documentary approach gives way to narrative storytelling. This technique felt a bit awkward to me, but overall the film is a warm-hearted look at people who feel they have had experiences with high strangeness and wish to learn more about it despite people’s doubting opinions.

The Hongfu Hotel (U.S, 2024)

Director Tian Xu’s The Hongfu Hotel is a horror-adjacent supernatural short film that takes a multigenerational approach through Chinese mythology and religion as young father Feng (Kevin Dang) visits his father Chen (Zhu-Sheng-Yin) on the final night of the family’s hotel in New York City’s Chinatown before it is demolished. Chen was hoping that the spirits of the hotel’s previous residents would be reincarnated, and Feng follows his father’s wish that the young man say goodbye to the hotel and its ghostly dwellers. The hotel interior is beautiful, thanks to incredible work by Production Designer Miao “Mojo” Wen, and Director of Photography Steven Xie’s cinematography is sumptuous. Xu, working from a screenplay by Michael Ben-Iftah Nutovits, crafts a thought-provoking work that is far more concerned with the heartstrings and the mind than going for shocks. The mystical, the magical, and the mindful blend together beautifully in The Hongfu Hotel.

They’re Here and The Hongfu Hotel screened as part of Tribeca Festival, which ran June 5–16, 2024. For more information, visit https://tribecafilm.com/festival/film.

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