Review: ‘Them (Ils)’

You can always expect a little embellishment for any horror film or thriller that claims to be based on a true story or actual events. This one, however, doesn’t sell it.

A thirty-something couple live quietly in an isolated house outside of the suburbs of Bucharest. Clémentine (Olivia Bonamy) is a French teacher while her boyfriend Lucas (Michaël Cohen) is a stay-at-home novelist. During one particular evening in their house, something is not as it should be. With the rain beating down outside, their telephone rings out in the middle of the night followed by strange sounds and eerie lights outside. Once the couple realize that they are not alone, their nightmare truly begins.

The above description is paraphrased from the original material supplied to advertise the film, so the filmmakers wanted to be clear as to what their intentions were. The setting is conducive to terror, an old house too large for only two people full of hiding places and set deep enough into the woods to make escape on foot difficult. Throw in a creepy introduction with an ill-timed thunderstorm and the happy couple’s home suddenly becomes a maze-like death trap with unknown assailants waiting in every shadow and behind every door. While supposedly based on an actual encounter, the embellishments of this retelling grow steadily more implausible all the way up to its “shock” ending.

Without giving too much away, its easy to see why anyone already a bit jumpy and afraid might assume the most supernatural of explanation for strange happenings. In this respect, the film succeeds in creating a fearful atmosphere from what was previously a safe haven: the couple’s home and estate property. The problem lies in the discipline and organization of the who and what the “monsters” are supposed to be; there are too many instances where facts surrounding this incident fall completely apart, from speed to supposed strength. In the end, what we’re expected to believe simply doesn’t add up, and it calls additional attention the fact that there isn’t any apparent motivation for the incident, either.

The recipe is nearly cliché; an old place, a young couple, and isolated setting, a dark and stormy night, and something evil lurking in the dark to kill. Them manages to construct the necessary atmosphere to tell the tale, it’s just that the harder you think about the ending, the more ridiculous it sounds. Supernatural or not, there’s about as much plausibility to the end of this tale as finding out that your average house cat hacked your bank account to illegally order Columbian catnip to be airdropped into your back yard.

(a one and a half skull recommendation out of four)

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