Them (aka Ils) (2006)

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“Lucas and Clémentine live peacefully in their isolated country house, but one night they wake up to strange noise… they’re not alone… and a group of hooded assailants begin to terrorize them throughout the night.” — IMDb

It will probably come as no surprise that I loved this movie. This is completely stripped down French horror — no wild special effects, no overbearing music, no overdone dialogue. It just relies on the natural panic that ensues from watching two people be terrorized for no discernible reason in their own home.

The opening scene — both bewildering and terrifying in a raw way — sets up a tension that will last throughout the entire movie. The car driving by unsuspectingly as she is strangled in the van highlights something that is really scary to me, which is, ultimately, the reality that things like this do happen out in the every day world and occasionally we are none the wiser to it happening right near us. It’s tied together when Clémentine (played by Olivia Bonamy) drives by the same van being towed the following afternoon — she has no idea how connected that moment will be to what will ensue later.

She shares a nice evening with her husband, Lucas (played by Michaël Cohen), before things start going terribly wrong. What at first seems like a simple car theft turns into them being chased and traumatized by unknown pursuers. It’s the mystery behind it all that draws me into home invasion horrors like this — who are these people? Why have they targeted us? What do they want? You don’t see any of the assailants until the very last scenes of the movie, and for a while you aren’t 100% certain if they are even fully human — they manage to be nowhere and yet everywhere, popping up unexpectedly, and they only emit strange chirping and rattling noises rather than any normal sounds.

I had some frustrations with Clémentine’s slow moving at some points, characteristic in many stalker/slasher films. Like when she’s in the attic space surrounded by sheets of hanging plastic and one of the attackers is hurling a wooden board to find where she is… and yet she still creeps slowly around looking for them. C’MON now.

It’s also been said in other reviews that the plot is basic and the characters aren’t fleshed out much, but honestly I think it’s a fair and worthy trade for this movie having only a 77 minute run time. It’s quick and to the point — not knowing every last detail about the couple and their relationship adds to the anonymity of the movie as a whole. It’s also based on a true story (supposedly an Austrian couple who were murdered by three teenagers while vacationing in Romania), so perhaps the directors/writers, David Moreau and Xavier Palud, kept it vague on purpose.

They manage to get loose from the house and are chased through the surrounding woods by an unknown number of attackers. Again, the guttural noises, clicking, and rattling only add to the feeling of these people not being quite human, whether that’s meant in a literal or figurative sense. There’s real panic and some moments of humanity within the last couple scenes, and the ending — which I won’t spoil for you — is truly chilling and unexpected. Well done indeed.

Rating: 6.5/10 | Director: David Moreau, Xavier Palud | Writer: David Moreau, Xavier Palud | Music: René-Marc Bini | Starring: Olivia Bonamy, Michaël Cohen

 

 

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