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 suspense thriller which is the handiwork of David Moreau and Xavier Palud. Suspense is difficult to do, it involves the right timing, with the psychological aspect observed; otherwise it will end up a bit too cheesy and ineffective. Lately, Hollywood has done the cheap way out; filming gruesome gorefests that seems to be desperate attempts to induce psychological whiplash. The elements that made Hitchcock and John Carpenter films so successful are becoming rare; oftentimes nonexistent, modern filmmakers tend to rely too much on visual manipulation. “Them” at least, tries a different approach, and makes an attempt at psychological horror without wallowing too much in blood and gore. The fact that the film is a fictionalized account based on true events took me aback, but one thing I know, the directors really didn’t know what happened so consider this film an informed (if over exaggerated) guess.
Plot: Clementine and Lucas are young lovers who live outside the outskirts of a Romanian town. She’s a teacher and he’s a writer, they live a happy, quiet life in the countryside. But little do they know that the night will bring them terror; they’ve surrounded by unseen assailants. What do they want? What would it take to escape THEM? Pretty simple premise, right?
Please be advised that I have no idea of Romanian lifestyle nor do I consider myself an expert in horror films. Moreau and Palud aren’t reinventing anything with this outing and while it may be a decent attempt in recreating actual events, I have mixed feelings about the film. I’ve mentioned that suspense should be handled carefully and I believe the most effective way to induce such viewer reactions and interactions (you wouldn’t believe how involved I was when I saw “Halloween” and “Psycho”) is by emotional content in forming an attachment to the leads.
True, the filmmakers probably didn’t want the film to be a commentary on how bleak the situation in Romania is, as to why the antagonists are the way they are or if the couple did something wrong to deserve such treatment (I can‘t back this up any further without spoiling the film), but I really had a difficult time connecting to the two protagonists. What it does is attempt to intermingle the emotions of the viewer with that of the two leads. Obviously, the directors’ intentions are to sidestep character development in order to deliver a thrilling experience. They waste no time in setting things up with very minor character background then they grab you by the throat and squeezes tightly; the film never lets up with its intensity. From then on, the film is reduced to a number of chase sequences that it becomes an average cat and mouse game that uses the same formulas that we’ve all seen before. The sequences reminded me a lot of the film “Vacancy”.
To its credit, the film does have its share of nice set designs. The house that Clem and Lucas are living in has an eerie feel and emulates a very claustrophobic feel. The way the film is shot has a “greenish hue” that those familiar with Japanese Horror films would know what I am talking about. This is a nice touch that it adds a feeling of dread and bleakness in the proceedings. The performances by Olivia Bonamy and Michael Cohen (Clem and Lucas respectively) are quite decent. Clementine is a “screamer” that does add to the terrified lady bit and Lucas has a quiet personality. The directors did try to intermingle our emotions with those of the protagonists, with some success. The mingling of emotions between the viewer and the leads to promote terror is a clever style if done right; we can care about the characters even if they are a bit hollow and underdeveloped. All in all, I did enjoy the “unknown” attackers gimmick up to the “shocking” climax.
David Moreau and Xavier Palud aren’t reinventing the horror thriller genre, “Them” is a modest attempt from Romania (or is it France?). However, I did feel like the filmmakers were relying too much on how the Press probably sensationalized this fact-based affair in Romania to bring people in theater seats that the script was too predictable and full of holes, it did feel that it suffered from lack of research on what really happened. Still, I can see why this film would either be loved or disliked by its viewers. The film did successfully induce a feeling of a dreadful situation that emulates an eerily intense feel and the identity of the antagonists is very disturbing. “Them” is a straightforward chase film losing any excess meat such as intricate storytelling and character development…Enjoy it for what it is, a 77 minute thrill ride! (includes credits)
Recommended with Caution, Rent it first. [3+ Stars]
This Movie had inspired the CRAPTACULAR horror movie "The Strangers".
***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". … more
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 … more
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 … more
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 … more
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.