Them was directed by David Moreau and Xavier Palud and released in 2006. It is a thriller rather than a straight horror film but it is still terrifying. I have always found the concept of home invasion films absolutely horrifying. A home is a safe haven, a place where you feel secure and comfortable. So, the idea of someone violating the one place that is your own and where you are supposed to feel safe is scary. Them is a very effective home invasion film but also much more.
Clementine and Lucas, a young French couple, have been living near Bucharest for a few months. Clementine is a teacher and Lucas is a writer, working in their home in the countryside. One night, people break into their house and chase them with the intention of harming them. Ensues a deadly game of cat and mouse.
The opening sequence establishes that something bad is lurking around, in the night. But you almost forget about it while the movie gives a portrait of the main characters : a nice and happy couple. The actors give good performances, are believable as a couple and come across as genuinely nice people. Having them live in a foreign country was a very smart idea as it increases their isolation (new culture, new language, new home…). A lot of aspects are unknown to them and it conveys this uneasy feeling that communication with the outside world is limited.
The main tool used to convey fear is sound. It is super effective and never fails to scare you…and no, there are no jump scares ! This was a genius idea as the identity of “them” is unknown throughout the film so you barely see the invaders and the characters have to rely on sound to hide from or locate the enemy. Every scene is designed to scare the viewer and it works perfectly. There is no gore but the directors prove that you don’t need blood to make a frightening film that will keep the viewer from sleeping peacefully afterwards !
Them uses a primal sense of fear and the level of tension never decreases. It is constant and keeps getting worse. The scariest aspect of the film is that everything feels extremely real. You will have no trouble putting yourself in the characters’ shoes. I also liked that they react to this dreadful situation as you’d imagine anyone would. They are not heroes, they are normal people facing an abnormal event and trying to survive this unexpected madness. The chase is simply fantastic : Clementine is being chased by “them” and, as the viewer, you do feel like a prey as well, imprisoned by the directors and living this nightmare with her. The ending is, in a word, brilliant ! My jaw dropped the first time I watched Them. I will not spoil anything in this review, as I do believe this a must-watch, but the film does end on a high note.
Them proves that blood and gore are not what makes horror films scary. The premise is terrifying and the result is a film filled with tension which I recommend watching in the dark for an even better viewing experience. Part of the French Extreme New Wave, what I found extreme here is not the imagery but the story itself. Brilliant work for a directorial debut !