Home invasion horror films have always been a popular sub-genre, they bring out those fears that we had as children; monsters in the closet and shadowy figures in the darkness are the most popular. The problem with Them is that by making it realistic there is nothing to really grab our attention. Starting with a mother driving with her rebellious daughter after what we can assume was the mother finding out something not too wonderful about her daughter's personal life. The mother swerves to avoid a figure standing in the road and crashes into a pole, when she goes out to fix the car she disappears, leaving her daughter all alone. All alone the daughter is killed by a mysterious killer. Now the film jumps to the story at hand; Clementine (Olivia Bonamy) has moved from France to her Romania with her writer boyfriend, Lucas (Michael Cohen), where she takes up a job teaching middle school. Their house is secluded and creepy. We are not given any foreplay, at all, before the jump-out scare attempts commence. On the first night we see them together a group of mysterious figures appeal with violent intentions.
At many times this film gives off the impression of being a haunted house horror with a never disappearing supernatural presence; lights going off and coming on a perfect times and squealing figures always in the shadows. Directors David Moreau and Xavier Palud have something up their sleeves, but it never seems like they gain the courage to let it loose. Their direction is, for the most part, very dull and lifeless, but on brief occasions they surprise. The simplest of scare tactics and horror storytelling methods are used causing this film to never feel original. Hiding in the basement, flickering lights, objects mysteriously moving, the characters thinking they escaped only to have one of them not have the strength to continue, etc. etc. We have seen it all before.
It does not matter what devious intentions a film has if the build-up scares don't work. Them is very dull with a painfully slow pace, if I can come to the realization that I could let my three-year-old sister come in (I actually did let her) and she wouldn't even be scared then there is something going wrong. I don't think it is me not appreciating a slow-paced structure or even a realistic approach, there have been plenty of films under those categories that I have really enjoyed: Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby (1968), Wes Craven's The Last House on the Left (1972), and Brad Anderson's Session 9 (2001). All those films are structured in a realistic way, even Wes Craven's eccentric style in Last House still allows us to feel that "it could really happen." Yes, you do get that feeling in this film, but that doesn't mean it works. Not even the dark, shadowy, atmosphere is used to there benefit, instead much of the film is crammed into their very roomy house.
We are suckered into watching this film until the very end due to un-ignoreable desires to figure out just what is going on. Like I previously mentioned, there is a ever-present supernatural feeling along with the realistic structure. I will definitely give both directors credit for doing a good job working in what is really "going on" with the rest of the film. At the film's conclusion you realize that there was some solid social commentary going on, unfortunately going into it would ruin the one real bright spot of the entire film. What I will say is that for the ending Them really lets its hair down, giving up on lousy scare attempts and a cliched structure and becoming a real nail-bitter with some powerful shots.
Even with a very modest running time of 76 minutes, Them still feels very long. My interest was all but gone with 20 minutes left to go, but a wonderfully executed final 10 minutes did bring some much needed life. Olivia Bonamy and Michael Cohen's performance are forgettable, their dialogue is realistic, but still lousy. The unknown is really what keeps the film, barely, moving. Viewer's minds are allowed to make assumptions, I found myself jumping to many of my own conclusions. The end product does almost make the wait worth it, but it is very disappointing that the substance waited until the end to come out of hiding. I guess it too was afraid of the shadowy figures lurching in the darkness. If you are a patient movie watcher then there is something worth waiting for in this thriller trying to be a horror, if you're are a guts-loving, edge-of-your-seat at all times movie watcher then this may not be something you will find worth your time.