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STUDIO: Dark Sky Films
RUNNING TIME: 75 minute
• The making of Them
• The torture of Clementine featurette
• Composer featurette
• Original theatrical trailers
Romanian real estate advertisement goes horribly, horribly wrong.
Starring Olivia Bonamy and Michael Cohen
Written and directed by: David Moreau and Xavier Palud
Based on a true story (aren’t they all?) Them is a small but terrifying home invasion horror. Clementine (Bonamy) and Lucas (Cohen) have recently moved to Romania from France and though it might have appeared to have been a good idea at the time, bought a huge old house out in the middle of bumfuck nowhere. They’re young, so I can forgive them their stupidity, but honestly, has anything good ever happened in Romania?
Remember fear? Not the shitty movie with Marky Mark, but genuine fear. The kind you experience when you don’t know if you’re going to get out of something in one piece? It creeps over you and holds you hostage until, one way or another, it’s over. I miss fear. Sure, blood, guts and viscera are great, they can effectively bludgeon us into fear: if you don’t submit, this is what can happen. But I prefer the fear that hunts you, stalks you and when it finally catches you, it finishes you off with a surgical knife, piece by piece until there is nothing but a mass of goo where your courage used to be.
Them is as close to the definition of fear as we can get. It oozes atmosphere and that overwhelming sense of dread and ‘oh shit’. Sometimes, I feel it’s almost too atmospheric, too tense because there are long builds with almost no release; even the ending leaves us with an even sicker sense in our stomach, unrelieved and still scared, if not more terrified at what happened.
I always ask what’s more horrifying: the demon or the man? There is no right or wrong answer, are you more afraid of supernatural shit or human beings acting in the worst possible way? I’m generally an optimist when it comes to my world view, so I will reveal two nuggets of information which will not affect your view of the movie, but might affect your view of me: the first, these antagonists are very human, and the second, that terrifies the shit out of me. So yes, demons I can understand, they’re here to fuck up our world; but people…people behaving like this are to be feared most of all.
From the get go, a small related story involving a mother and daughter driving along a darkened road at night, you know you’re in for something a cut above the ordinary. Directors David Moreau and Xavier Palud, with the help of cinematographer Axel Cosnefroy ratchet up the tension simply by the way they light and place the camera. Shots linger, faces obscured, little moments are given great weight, as if they’re more important than they are. They tease and tease, and change up the horror scenarios seamlessly. We’re in a particular situation, such as a spooky attic, just long enough to drain us and then it’s back to the races with something that amps us up even further, leaving us breathless until the end. But no matter where we are, They are always there, a faceless pack of…who knows, human, mortal, but dangerous. So very dangerous.
We’re given about twenty minutes of set up to allow us into Clem & Lucas’ life and both actors equip themselves well enough. They have chemistry, a simple, loving relationship; but most importantly, they’re normal. They’re not super sexy co-eds or bimbos and dudes, they’re instantly relatable, something many horror films go for but have to sacrifice for names or sexiness. The movie demands much from them physically and both are up to the task. One of the best things about horror movies is that fear is a constant; no one needs to translate ‘aaah’ for us, we understand implicitly that bad things are happening.
And oh my, do bad things happen. Don’t expect a gorefest filled with sadistic savages and a blood and guts; the only blood comes from a wound Lucas receives. No, this is the fear I mentioned; it stalks you, it forces you to run because there is no safe place. I’ll use a recent film for comparison: ‘Orphan’, it’s good, but it pulls its punches in regards to the ending. Them has no problem following through with its agenda. Maybe it’s a European thing, maybe it’s the true story aspect, but when you find out who ‘Them’ are and why they’re doing it, it makes you gag at humanity. It’s odd when the reveal happens because it’s almost not a reveal, you’re so disoriented by what’s going on that you’re unsure. The script is smart enough to keep you in such a state that after faces are revealed, there’s still life in these horrified sails. That is a rare accomplishment and my kudos go out to the creators.
In the age when gore is king and the only thing most horror films have going for them is a sizable bodycount, Them is a breath of fresh air. It’s utterly without bullshit, fat and loaded with tension and atmosphere so thick you need a sword to cut through it. Alas, I am sad, for a film this good has only future: shitty American remake. I’m coming right out and saying this, if you love horror, if you love movies that unnerve the shit out of you, you will love Them.
It’s a glorious looking movie, washed out, dark but never unclear. The sound is used to great effect; quiet when it needs to be, overpowering when necessary but always haunting. Composer Rene-Marc Bini crafts a wonderful score and even has his own featurette on the DVD! Another featurette involves a look into the brief torture sequence in the film and it always amazes me that, no matter what the budget, most sets still look college movie sets. A bunch of people, some hanging out, some doing work, all of them invested. There is a longer making of feature that’s quite intriguing into the methods used, as well as both French and American trailers, both of which are decent but don’t do the film any justice whatsoever.