SCREENED AT THE 2007 SXSW FILM FESTIVAL: “Them,” or “Ils”, is a based-on-a-true-scary-story French film set in Romania. It's also one of the more intense cinematic experiences I've had in a while and even has subtext to go with its subtitles.At the start, we meet a bickering mother and daughter on the road at night and the action begins almost immediately, only for it to then consciously slow down and almost grind to a halt.
The beginning plot focuses on Clementine, a new teacher worn down from a long day at work and anxious to get home to her beau Lucas. Clementine looks like a younger version of a cross between Jennifer Connelly and Demi Moore; she's an everyday, believable beauty, one you guess will probably endure a whole lot longer than the big-boobed blonds who die so easily in scary movies.
Them takes an almost excruciatingly long time to introduce you to Clementine and Lucas – all the while strange, frightening things happen in the house – so long in fact that it's only in the second half of the film that you really appreciate all the meticulously crafted build-up.
The reason why Them works so well is because it keeps you in the dark (figuratively and literally) for as long as it can. It's the classic Jaws “what's in the water?” approach. And best of all, character development, cool even-handed direction, and well-executed action sequences aren't sacrificed in hopes that a big finale (or twist ending) will redeem it.
The score is sad and ominous and supremely effective, but it usually only kicks in before and after the “scares,” rather than during them. It doesn't let directors David Moreau and Xavier Palud or the cast slack off at all in delivering the suspense as so much scary movie music tends to do. Them is as comfortable in the quiet as it is in loud noise and chaos.If you're wondering who “they” are, then you're off to a good start.
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.