on 4 April 2013
'Them', or 'Ils', a 2006 French horror film directed by David Moreau and Xavier Palud, has a fairly thin, uninteresting plot: a couple are attacked by four unknown children in their home in an extremely isolated area. It's not a particularly ordinary plot and one which is overdone in the horror genre. With this being said, 'Them' has to rely on other aspects of filmmaking in order for it for it to be an enjoyable and engaging film.
Beyond the plot, in other areas of filmmaking, then, 'Them' mostly succeeds. The character development is well done and appropriately provokes fear in the viewers. Firstly, the couple that is presented in the film are likeable as both lovers and as individuals and so we empathise with the characters as the villians begin to attack them. Unlike in most horror films these days, neither of the protagonists make stupid, nonsensical decisions whilst being attacked, attempting to deal with the situations thrown at them in a methodical manner. Prior to the unsettling events and violence, we warm to the protagonists, whilst, on the contrary, the cold, anonymous nature of the antagonists support film's the grim, unsettling nature. We are not given the names of the villians, nor do we even see their full faces at any point; the fact that the villians are not fully developed therefore adds to the film's sense of mystery and the terror that may be evoked in the audience.
Other factors of filmmaking are well portrayed in 'Them', for example, the cinematography is very artfully done: throughout all of the scenes the camera work captures the dull, miserable setting well; the excellence of the camera work is mainly demonstrated in the second falf of the film, and particularly when the couple leave their house and move towards the woods.
The development of the film itself is very fine, consistently building up suspense and fear within the audience's mind. The opening scene, which serves as a prelude to the events that take place, captures tension and terror, mainly through silence and, once again, isolation, two attributes which stay true to the film as a whole. As stated previously, the character development is good, as are the complications that are presented: after the couple realise that are being attacked and that the villians are inside their house, several (perhaps generic) events take place which improve the level of fear, such as the TV and taps being turned, and a rather haunting image of one the villians themselves.
However, the final fifteen minutes or so make for the most engaging, interesting part of the film: as the attacks that our protagonists face swing into full force, the nerves that we experience also raise to their highest level as we root for the couple and hope for them to find safety. Whilst the climax of the film is intense, its conclusion is, I found, rather disappointing. (WARNING: the following contents of my review contain spoilers for those who have not seen the film.) 'They wouldn't play with us', explains one of the children after the police arrest the villians since they find the bodies of the couple days after the events take place. On one hand, this conclusion is quite thought-provoking: were the children (who are revealed to be aged between ten and fifteen) simply lonely and wanted some friendly company, and went to such drastic measures to hurt the protagonists because they failed to get their wish? On the ironic contrary, there are much more friendly ways to introduce yourself to people than abruptly invading their house at 4am in the morning, and I'm sure if everyone was in this position, they would react with the same terror that the couple did. With the aforementioned point being made, I feel that the conclusion wasn't thought out as well and as fully as it could have been.
On the whole, there is really nothing insulting or offensive about 'Them' as a film (until perhaps the conclusion, as I have stated, depending on how you personally interpret it). What my overall thoughts boiled down to, then, was, despite how contempent the filmmaking may be, is it memorable, and would I recommend the film to horror fanatics, or even introduce the film as a template of good, engaging horror to someone who is wanting to invest in the horror genre? The answer to all of these questions, for me, unfortunately, was no. As nicely done as it is, there is nothing remotely interesting about the film to the extent that it stays with you afterwards, and it's, as I have already said, merely quite a generic piece of work as far as the contents of the horror genre are concerned. One of the quotes on the front of the DVD cover states that I should 'expect nightmares', but, whilst there is a satisfying level of fear whilst this film is being watched, I certainly won't be losing any sleep over it. Collectively, there are far more horror films that are clearly more engaging and original than this piece of work, and simply for the fact that 'Them' fails to present viewers with nothing new, despite its consistency, it ultimately feels quite empty, and falls short of expectations.