A dysfunctional relationship between mom (Adriana Mocca) & her teen daughter Sanda (Maria Roman) prefaces Them (Ils, 2006). They're arguing about nothing on a dark back road when mom swerves to miss something vague on the road. They end up broken down & mom very swiftly, very mysteriously vanishes. Then Sanda falls victim to what we, the viewer, are not permitted to see.
The most ordinary of horror films frequently make this signal error. They "introduce" characters only to kill them, so that commercial action or slaughter can be had right at the start. But now the story has to start from scratch, as we've no characters as yet, & may not trust that the next patch introduced aren't also just the director doing target practice.
You can be ten minutes into such a film without yet relating to any character, & often never have a second chance to completely capture the audience.
Cut to Clementine (Olivia Bonamy), a school teacher, whose tale we hope will last a bit longer than Sanda & her mom's cliche-reliant routine. Clem lives in a big run down house in the countryside with Lucas (Michael Cohen), a would-be writer. Their life has a certain tedium, but the location is photogenic & the couple seems happy.
Since they're not inherently interesting people it's difficult to care about them. In American horror films they'd be "suburban dweebs" who exist to torment & kill, as was the case in this French film with the first two characters. But apparently the film does want us to care about Clem & Lucas, even if they too exist only for their target value.
They have little personality beyond being "nice" people in the worst sense of the term, & unless you can relate to them, perhaps as a fellow suburban dweeb, what follows in their lives really isn't going to matter.
The sense of dread begins when their car gets stolen. The phone is easy for the mysterious "Them" to take out, & the electricity too. It's all standard stuff, isolation & terror & a home invasion, though nothing happens in the first half hour that isn't One Oh One for the most unimaginative sort of horror.
There's no story to speak of, & there's not even a decent amount of blood & guts, so it fails even as junky exploitation like the torture-porn version of the same scenario, The Strangers (2008).
The Strangers makes a viewer feel slimed rather than horrified, but if you knew at the start it was torture porn, it delivers what it promises & some good mask designs into the bargain.
The Strangers has been called an unoffocial remake or plagiarism of Them. The long-maintained "invisibility" of the strangers in Them however doesn't make me think of Strangers as sharing even an influence. Fact is, there's a level of non-inventiveness & lack of storytelling skill that does not require plagiarism to reproduce. It only requires a shared lack of imagination.
A cat & mouse game arises in Them as the unseen assailents launch scare tactics through the night. Eventually the game moves out of the house & into the surrounding woods for variety, but otherwise remains more of same. In one lame scene Clementine finds the car & tries hysterically to find the keys & start the car; she fails. But the car is obviously idling & the wipers in motion, so what the hell were the directors thinking?
The couple is so helpless they kind of just seem stupid. The pursuers make clicking sounds, never speak otherwise, which is kind of spooky, but we're headed for a big "reveal" that is so disappointing it's like discovering the boogy man is ony a hamster that got out of its cage.
The action moves to an unlikely catacombs we're expected to believe just exists out there in the middle of nowhere. Not it all turns into a particularly unimaginative game of Dungeons & Dragons, but with hamsters instead of dragons.
It's in these catacombs we finally learn [SPOILER ALERT!] the preditors, instead of the usual inbred hillbillies, are regular children. So regular they couldn't possibly have had the strength to do the stuff they've been doing, like haul off that mom into the night in the opening scene.
Our dull heroes have managed to kill three so far, when they suddenly decide to trust one of the little bastards who seems to want to help. Foolish decision. That they remain helpless against this Lord of the Flies enclave of brats is not the least bit convincing. [END SPOILER ALERT]
The film is entirely void of imagination or credibility. If you're the sort who can drum up sympathy for a boring dimbulb couple, Them might spook you enough to be glad you saw it. For me it came off as utter rubbish. Rate this one two yawns & a solid kick in each of the directors' nads.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl