Horror. Worldview. Faith.

Them – Review

Them – Review

Oct 5, 2012

reviewed by Danny
directed by David Moreau and Xavier Palud, 2006
_______________________________________

The French-language film Them is a part of the seemingly rapidly growing horror sub-genre commonly referred to as home invasion movies.  There are older examples (Wait Until Dark, most importantly), but the genre really seemed to enter the public consciousness with Haneke’s infamous Funny Games (1997) which was remade in Hollywood by the same director ten years later and was controversial even then.  Them shares a number of plot elements and themes with Funny Games, but where Funny Games was a meditation on the influence of violent cinema, Them seems more of a concession to mankind’s animal natures and the banality of evil.

The film opens with a effective prologue wherein a mother and daughter are murdered after a minor car accident by unseen killers.  We don’t know who the killers are,, and we don’t know if they caused the accident on purpose or simply took advantage of weakened prey.  When Clem, a French expatriate teaching at a French-language school in Budapest, passes by the accident the next day, we know that whoever killed the mom and daughter are close by.  That is all the threat we need for the film  to start building its suspense.  We see Clem return to her dilapidated, isolated country home to her writer husband, Lucas.

It isn’t long before the couple is under attack.  As they attempt to fight off the intruders, Clem is revealed to be vastly more competent and quick-thinking than her husband. Lucas is a man of words, not actions and is soon nearly incapacitated, but Clem quickly recognizes the danger they are in and starts to formulate an escape plan.  It was nice to see the role of protector and helpless victim reversed for much of the film.

Once the killers are on the scene, Them becomes a tense chase film that gave me the kind of nervous expectation of the worst possible outcome that I got from Spielberg’s tight chase film, Duel. The pursuers in Them remain faceless for most of the film, as seems to be a common theme in home invasion horror films.  More than their facelessness, I was disturbed with the killers’ lack of voices.  The film has very little in the way of a score or soundtrack, but the sound-design gives us a world filled with creepy noises (creaking doors, screeching animals, slamming doors, the white noise of a television).  It is, however, the bug-like clicking sound made by one the killers that really got under my skin.  It kind of sounded like a man calling a dog, but more mechanical and inhuman (tick-tick-tick-tick-tick).  We learn late in the film how the killers are making the noise, but that revelation makes the sound more creepy, not less.

Them doesn’t have the most controversial elements of Funny Games because the focus is on the chase, not the torture and psychological terrorism of the victims.  Still, once the killers are revealed, the film forces us to ask serious questions about society and human nature. I have seen it suggested that the film is an allegory about the fears French people have of their “primitive” neighbor Romania.  There are certainly some stranger-in-a-strange-land tropes, but considering that the fake “based on a true story” elements claim to be about a an Austrian couple in France, it seems more likely that the film is a response to and iteration on concepts from Funny Games, an Austrian film about a German family in Austria.

I highly recommend Them. The film is intense from start to finish and has a deep and disturbing theme that I can’t really talk about without spoiling the ending.  I think it is safe to say that, like many horror films, Them argues that human beings capable of awful violence are all around us and that we may never understand what drives someone to kill, especially if what drives them is simply boredom.

Please follow and like us:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *