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Lunch » Tags » Movies » Reviews » Them (ILS) » User review

Another Doomed Trip to the Countryside: Them (Ils)

  • Jul 21, 2009
  • by
Rating:
+4

Running a scant 77 minutes, Them (or Ils in its native French) is a shining example of horror cinema done right. It’s a taut and suspenseful stalker film that takes about fifteen minutes setting things up and then jumps right into the crux of the narrative without ever letting up, giving the audience a chance to catch their breath, or wasting our time with telegraphed jump scares or meaningless filler subplots. In a world where horror cinema seems to be obsessed with how much gore and torture an audience can endure, this film is a relative breath of fresh air—relying solely on the tension inherent in its premise and the “what would I do in that situation” feelings the events unfolding evoke.


The simplistic plot finds Clementine (Olivia Bonamy) and her writer/husband Lucas (Michael Cohen) living in an isolated Romanian mansion. Life seems good for them—she’s a teacher, he’s working on some new project, they’re in love, and they’re living in a really nice pad. Things can’t stay good, though, or we wouldn’t have much of a movie. Problems arise when they’re accosted by a group of hooded strangers who seem intent not so much on killing them outright, but toying with them—making them fight for their lives like mice in the clutches of a particularly malevolent cat.


As simplistic as that sounds, that’s the plot in its entirety. Them doesn’t waste any time with subplots or side-stories—it’s content to merely trot out the two main characters, let you get to know them for about fifteen minutes, and then put the cat and mouse game into motion for the rest of the film. Once the chase starts, the action never falters. When Them takes off, it’s literally 60 straight minutes of stalk and chase sequence.


The beauty of this is that directors David Moreau and Xavier Palud understand how to create tension through visuals and some truly disturbing sound design. In an American film of this nature (like The Strangers) the film would be filled with a lot of bogus jump scare scenes where the audience thinks something’s about to happen but it’s all a big fake out. There are no jump scares in this film, no cats jumping into frame, no pop up surprises. Instead, the movie is filled with genuine tension and an ever-increasing sense of dread.


The film, in a bit of a departure from the recent French horror cinema, is relatively bloodless. Don’t let that put you off though—what it lacks in gore it more than makes up for in genuine suspense. The final shot is haunting without spilling a single drop of blood—and is guaranteed to linger with viewers long after the film has ended.


Reportedly based on a true story (with liberties taken, I’m sure), Them is a smart and intriguing horror film made by filmmakers who understand that sometimes keeping things simple is more effective than trotting out tons of CGI and fifty different characters. The downside of this is that for me, as a critic, it doesn’t make for a particularly long review. That aside, there’s nothing wrong with a film that comes in focused, does exactly what it sets out to do, and lets you get on your way in under 90 minutes (and leaves you wanting more in the process). Them is one of those rare horror films that does almost everything right—and will appeal to both gorehounds and more conservative genre fans at the same time. Definitely check this film out.

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July 27, 2009
Yeah, I agree with Woop. Nice job. I get tired though of everything being based on a "true story". Sure. Once there was a man and a woman and they lived in the country. Check.
 
July 21, 2009
YAY! Thanks for obliging me. (and everyone else). You nailed it! This was taut, cleverly paced, and had that no-nonsense approach. I actually liked it better the 2nd time I saw it...great catch that this film was bloodless, compared to "Inside" and "Frontier(s)" this was really light on the violence. Great work as always (really liked your closing paragraph), Mike and I'm happy you enjoyed "Martyrs" also.
 
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More Them (ILS) reviews
review by . May 01, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
***1/2 out of ****     "Them" is a smart film that hits all the right notes. It works as both an ingenious thriller and a riveting horror film. It plays with our love of fear, tension, and thrills; and delivers all three in one successful blow. There have been critics who hated or just didn't find this film entertaining, although take it from me, this is one of the best horror films you're likely to see (from the past decade). In short, if you want honest thrills, then see "Them". …
review by . March 15, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
An Intense THRILL RIDE Based On True Events In ROMANIA...
   My trusted reviewers were split on this French/Romanian fright flick. They have all presented their arguments and justified their reasons for liking or disliking this film credibly. My friends have been split down the middle when it came to this movie; seems like half of my friends liked it while the other half just didn‘t care for it. I decided to check it out seeing as I like controversy when I find it intriguing.     THEM (Ils) is a French/Romanian …
review by . August 06, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Just for kicks, THEY make noises in the night; they surround, they torment, they threaten, they hurt. "Them" tells the apparently true story of a seemingly banal evil that terrorized locals in a rural area outside of Bucharest, Romania. Rather than gore and exploitation, the filmmakers make inventive use of their camera and lighting and shadows and sound to create a serious atmosphere of dread. It works, and gave me the same chills I had watching The Blair Witch Project for the first time: a sense …
review by . April 06, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
French couple Clementine (Olivia Bonamy) and Lucas (Michael Cohen) are living near Bucharest, Romania. Clementine teaches at a French school and Lucas is a writer trying to work on his latest story but is struggling with writer's block. One a night in the middle of October a mother and daughter are involved in a car accident near where Clementine and Lucas are living. They are safe after the crash, but the mother disappears and the daughter is later strangled in the car. Clementine passes the accident …
About the reviewer
Mike Bracken ()
Ranked #219
I'm a 36-year-old film critic who specializes in Horror and Cult Cinema as well as Asian films. I spent two seasons as The Horror Geek on Comedy Central's pop-culture quiz show, Beat the Geeks. I'm also … more
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About this movie

Wiki

Lucas and Clementine live peacefully in their isolated country house, but one night they wake up to strange noise... they're not alone... and a group of hooded assailants begin to terrorize them throughout the night.

Writers & Director: David Moreau
Xavier Palud
 

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Details

Director: Xavier Palud
Genre: Action, Adventure, Horror
Release Date: August 3, 2007
MPAA Rating: R
DVD Release Date: Mar. 25, 2008
Runtime: 1hr 18min
Studio: Dark Sky Films
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