Them (2006) [Original Title: ils]

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Lucas and Clementine live peacefully in their isolated country house, but one night they wake up to strange noise… they’re not alone…

Following on from my recent post on the subjectivity of fear and why I can’t be scared anymore, a bit of research into various people’s scariest movies lead me to ‘Them‘. This French-Romanian horror movie has been lumped in with the likes of Inside, Martyrs and Haute Tension as being a part of the wave of French Horror that shook many people to their core. After watching Them, I can safely say it does not belong with that group of movies.

For starters, it’s not nearly as gory as those films are, so it sets itself apart from the beginning. The supposed scares in this movie come from the fear of the unknown, the invasion of privacy and lack of control our unwilling couple have as they become tormented throughout the night by god knows what. Set inside a half-finished, creepy house covered in shades of grey and green, the couple struggles to comprehend and find out who or what has seemingly got it in for them.

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Like walking through a horror maze, we are taken on a gradual tour of the house, with the hands peeling back the curtains, peering round the doors and hiding in the bedrooms. Locked in what you thought was your safe place, with something that is far from safe. This build of tension as the couple begin to investigate the disturbances could be unbearable for some. Nothing happens for about 50 minutes, no ‘jump scares’, no killings, nothing. Just a slow introduction of various noises, lights and eerie happenings give enough to keep you watching in the hope that something eventually happens.

Olivia Bonamy and Michael Cohen do a great job as the scared couple, running about in their gigantic house and stupidly large attic. They express a genuine fear in their eyes, they act cleverly, and the heroism elements remain within the realm of possibility. The camera work is clever, never giving too much away, and due to events shown earlier in the film we are constantly scouring the screen for hints of what is out to get them.

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Unfortunately, while Them is a technically a good film, this slow plodding about is essentially all the film has to offer. With its shorter running time of 77 minutes it could be forgiven for not doing much more than it did, but in reality you are just watching 2 people walk around a house for almost an hour. Initially you could sense the tension, but there’s only so many non-reveals you can take before hoping that something is actually behind the next curtain/door/sheet/window that will just end them and this tedious cat & mouse chase. The ending, though brutal its in frankness, is a cop-out and has tried to be recovered with the ‘based on true events’ nonsense.

Home invasion movies are nothing new, and while this is one of the better ones in the genre in terms of production and intention, it’s let down by its lack of anything happening. It wasn’t bad, it’s just that nothing really happened. I realise that for some people this might work, so I’ll put my subjectivity hat on again and emphasise why it could be scary. If you get scared by the thought of something creeping around your house at night, being attacked, walking around in darkness in the hope you can find what is out to get you before it finds you, but can handle a film where nothing happens, then you might enjoy this movie more than I did.

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Those who have seen it, the trailer or read about it, will notice that it’s incredibly similar to The Strangers. Don’t be put off by that comparison – this was made before it, and there’s a great article here about the similarities and differences. The Strangers pissed me off no end for its stupidity. Them is by no means a bad film, it’s better than The Strangers, but it was let down by repetition and a cheap ending.

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