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Overall Rating

Awesome: 21.21%
Worth A Look51.52%
Just Average: 24.24%
Pretty Crappy: 3.03%
Sucks: 0%

4 reviews, 9 user ratings

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Them (Ils)
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by Peter Sobczynski

"How do you say "Vacancy" en Francais?"
3 stars

If there is a familiar generic convention that the new French horror film “Them” doesn’t somehow manage to pack into its abbreviated 77-minute running time, I can’t think of it. An opening title card announcing that the following tale is based on real events? Check. A prologue involving a couple of characters who are brought in solely to let us know that there is a menace out there without doing any harm to the main characters? Check. An isolated house in the woods? Check. Mysterious late-night phone calls and power outages? Check. A jangly piano score a la John Carpenter? Check. A chase through the woods? Check. A moment where a character says “There’s nothing out there” that is immediately followed by definitive proof that there is indeed something out there after all? Check. A climactic moment where one of the good guys appears to kill an attacker and then immediately tosses away their weapon? Check. Frankly, the only thing that “Them” is missing is a bit in which the sexy heroine takes a shower and I am willing to give the film partial credit on that since that character does take one off-screen shower and one on-screen bath.

After the aforementioned prologue–a nifty little bit involving a mother/daughter pair, a dark and stormy night, a lonely road and an auto mishap–the story shifts focus to Clementine (Olivia Bonamy) and Lucas (Michael Cohen), a French couple that has recently relocated to a small town outside of Bucharest where she is a teacher and he is a struggling writer. (Their house, by the way, is so chock-full of dark corridors, creaky floors and handy hiding spaces that it could have been the cover feature for the Halloween issue of “Architectural Digest.”) After turning in to bed one ordinary night, there are beset by a series of odd incidents–anonymous phone calls, random power outages, a weird ratchety noise that cuts through the silence and the theft of Clementine’s car. Before long, Clementine and Lucas realize that they are under siege from a group of unseen attackers and as the evening progresses, they are forced to wage an increasingly desperate and violent battle against them in order to protect themselves while struggling to find a way to escape.

As a narrative exercise, “Them” is a fairly efficient thriller that plays by the rules that it sets up and maintains a reasonable air of realism throughout and maintains. Technically, it is as slickly accomplished as any horror buff could hope for and keeps up a decent level of tension throughout without bogging down into outright sadism. The heroes are likable enough and adequately pull off the requirements of their characters–Bonamy is strong and spunky and energetic and always looks good, even while crawling through sewer tunnels or fleeing through the wood just ahead of an unseen maniac–and the presence of the largely unseen bad guys is effectively conveyed through shadows and sound, so much so that when we finally do get a look at them, they aren’t nearly as terrifying in the flesh as they were in the mind. (Of course, this is part of the point of the film but to say any more would be to spoil the big reveal.) All these elements work and work well but the problem with “Them” is that once you get beyond those elements, there really isn’t much else to it. You keep waiting for the film to break free of its generic conventions and strike out on its own in the way that John Carpenter’s “Halloween” or Michael Haneke’s home-invasion nightmare “Funny Games” (to name only two of its most obvious antecedents) did but it soon becomes evident that nothing else is going to be offered up here other than the same old stuff served in an admittedly stylish manner.

Then again, perhaps I am being a little too hard on “Them” since it is clearly evident that the primary reason for its existence is to serve as a visual calling card for the debuting filmmaking team of David Moreau & Xavier Palud in the hopes of jump-starting their careers and getting them another gig. To that end, “Them” has certainly succeeded–after becoming a surprise hit in France, an American remake (with Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman) is set for release next year and Moreau & Palud have already made their English-language debut with the upcoming remake of the Korean supernatural thriller “The Eye” with Jessica Alba that is due this October. On the basis of their efforts here, I would say that the duo have shown that they clearly have what it takes to make a film. Now that they have pulled off that feat, let’s hope that the next time around, they can show us that they have what it takes to make a good one.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=14767&reviewer=389
originally posted: 08/23/07 23:55:57
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Fantasia Film Festival For more in the 2006 Fantasia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2007 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Philadelphia Film Festival For more in the 2007 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/12/17 morris campbell good if familiar 4 stars
1/25/10 michael Sargsian good movie..but not as scary as i thought 4 stars
11/24/09 damalc way scarier than i expected 4 stars
9/19/09 theone suspenseful film. Better than The Strangers 4 stars
4/02/09 Anonymous. it wasn't bad, but it wasn't very scary either. pretty predictable but good ending. 3 stars
8/02/08 TreeTiger French - and mighty frog-digesting... 2 stars
10/23/07 William Goss Flimsy in a narrative sense, but undeniably tense for the majority of its running time. 4 stars
3/18/07 Czechpointcharlie I agree with the reviewer, only moreso. I think it's a TERRIFIC scary film! 5 stars
9/05/06 Philip Blott A one trick pony filmed in the french style 3 stars
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  N/A (R)
  DVD: 25-Mar-2007



Directed by
  David Moreau
  Xavier Palud

Written by
  David Moreau
  Xavier Palud

  Olivia Bonamy
  Michael Cohen

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