in Shocktober

Them (2006)

Another last minute Shocktober pick, selected for the fact it’s only a couple minutes long. Okay, a little more than a couple minutes. Them—not to be confused with the movie about giant ants—runs a lean mean 74 minutes. At least an hour of this is spent running around a house from intruders and screaming and crying. Not really something I’d normally be interested in. There has to be hundreds of home invasion gone awry horror movies. What separates Them is its pure minimalism and deeply disturbing yet deeply satisfying twist.

The film begins with a mother and daughter stranded alongside a country road. They are then both murdered by unseen figures. I can only gather this intro was to pad out the runtime. I’m sure most will tell you it sets up our villains, but no, runtime. Now the movie really begins with our protagonist Clementine (Olivia Bonamy), a French teacher working in Bucharest, Romania. Clementine lives with her husband? Boyfriend? Lucas (Michael Cohen), in a nice house out in the countryside. How’d she get such a nice house with a teaching job? Maybe Lucas is pulling in the moolah? Though all we ever see is him doing is playing that old school pinball game on his Windows laptop. He deserves whatever is coming to him.

Late one night, Clementine and Lucas are woken by voices and shuffling. Someone is inside the house and they want to play. Them takes the common, yet always agreeable approach of barely showing its villains. I like this. Sometimes I get fed up with movies where the villains are just stomping around in dumb clown masks. It’s much scarier to be completely unaware of whatever force wants you dead. This game of cat and mouse, which is more or less the whole movie, has its highs and lows. Some set pieces feel very stock while others are a little more inventive. Though it’s not until the end where I felt genuinely impressed.

Here’s the paragraph where I spoil everything. The pursuers? They’re kids. Like ten to fifteen years old. Woah, creepy. Are they Clementine’s students? Some pissed off locals who hate French people? Who knows. It really doesn’t matter. It’s scary because it’s so hard to picture children being murderers. This makes the film significantly darker and far more unique. Plus, it’s like, nobody wants to fight back against a kid. It’s a difficult situation from every conceivable angle. Whoo. The last ten minutes are a doozy.

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I love how the film ends on a chilling shot of the children making their way through the woods to catch the bus. Of course they had to go ahead and immediately ruin this by having text to explain what happened afterwards. Blah, Blah, the bodies of Clementine and Pinball Guy were found, blah, blah, the kids did it because, “They wouldn’t play with us.” Weak. Totally lame. This film had an amazing ending and immediately had to rationalize it. Come on man, respect your audience’s intelligence. Just for this it loses a half star. If only this film was 73 minutes. Maybe they could have cut the dumb ass epilogue.