“Them” (Ils) – Chris Luedtke

I just glanced at the clock. It reads 3:36 AM, and I can hear it almost singing me to sleep. The night is old, and I find myself contemplating Them right now. Shutters slam, phones rattle, footsteps bend the floorboards with purpose and aggression. As my words become more confusing to my eyes, I wonder why I don’t just save this for tomorrow. I’ll give credit to anything or anyone that knows when to give up or why it’s a good idea to pursue such a notion. This is the case with the French suspense/horror flick Them, about which I can do nothing but ponder its very purpose.

Clémentine (Olivia Bonamy), a school teacher, and Lucas (Michaël Cohen), an author, lead a peaceful, secluded life in the French countryside. However, one night their world gets turned upside down. In the late hours, Clémentine is disturbed from her work by a phone call. A strange noise emanates from it, snapping and cracking. Worried, she awakens her husband Lucas and makes a startling realization: someone or something is after them.

Them possesses a most simplistic of horror concept: average folks find themselves running for their lives. Lucky for all of us, the film only clocks in at 77 minutes, giving us a pretty short ride. Thrills and chills appear along the way, but overall, I can’t say that much happened. Seriously, Them has about as much substance as a prime color. But when one doesn’t plan on pushing the envelope, why not just measure up to it instead?

It’s easy to realize that the only thing that Them has going for it is its suspense. People get chased, they hide, and as they catch their breath, we wonder why they heave so heavily. The introduction to the film left me curious as to what force would be hunting these innocents. But my question was answered quickly. Depressing, but even more so when you realize the culprits can be deduced with one close look. Still, I can’t knock Them too much. It does have some genuine moments of suspense. The introduction, again, will definitely give you a brief jolt. The cat and mouse game played throughout is both riveting and eye-rolling.

I wouldn’t compare Them to the high intensity of, well, High Tension, but there were a few times when the thrills were really kicking. Them offers the hook of being “based on a true story”; it’s a nice touch, and the film is shot realistically, but perhaps reality isn’t enough to make us fearful anymore. Its more in-your-face moments aren’t much different than what’s been beaten out of the dead horse that is Saw.

What else is there to say? Not much, really. The characters are simple, but they connect; we get the sense that they’re very much in love, they enjoy their peace, and they’re seriously frightened by those that lurk in the night. If anything in this review has interested you, dear reader, then by all means prepare for a heavy shoulder shrug, and pop in Them. It’s a quick fix for those looking for some modest suspense. The rest of us will go grab our copies of Repulsion and experience a more fulfilling source of tension.

Rating: ★★☆☆

-Chris Luedtke

Read A.J. Hakari’s Them review here.
Read Andrew Guarini’s Them review here.

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