Sunday, May 18, 2008

Review: Them (2007) [Review By Kelsey Zukowski]

Starring: Olivia Bonamy, Michaël Cohen
Written & Directed By: David Moreau and Xavier Palud
Released: 2007 (USA)
Grade: B-

Them is an independent horror film from France. It has been compared to High Tension, especially given its’ ending and the general atmosphere. I would say High Tension is the better film, but that doesn’t mean that Them won’t take you by complete surprise. It is based on true events, but the characters and even a lot of the circumstances and events have been changed.

After we witness a killing of two innocent victims on the side of a road one night, we are taken to our main characters, Clementine (Bonamy) and Lucas (Cohen). They are a couple living in a large house in Bucharest. Clémentine is an elementary school French teacher, while Lucas is a novelist. One night, Clémentine starts to hear noises in the night. After waking up they realize that someone is stealing their car. Clémentine and Lucas call the police, but it doesn’t look like anything will happen. Soon, all of their electricity starts to go out, making it impossible for them to even call for help. They know someone is messing with them, but the question is who and what do they want. After, this Clémentine never feels completely safe and for good reason. One night, they begin to be chased as the two of them run for their lives. Lucas is injured though and Clémentine leaves him to try to get some help. On her way, she ends gets kidnapped while Lucas follows. They end up in a sewer, and the culprits of an unexpected predator.

The biggest problem with Them is the pacing. If it wasn’t for that, it might be one of the best recent horror movies. The ending is a complete and utter shock. However, the built up feels like it takes far too long. The interesting thing about this though is that the movie is only 77 minutes long. The first 70 minutes, really don’t do or add much at all. Sure, we get to know Clémentine and Lucas a little, but this could be covered in 5 or 10 minutes rather than 70. Also, we don’t see or hear any part of the killer until the very end of the film. This almost makes the fear seem less real and possibly irrational. The thought of them imagining this whole thing really doesn’t seem that out of the question. When we do see the killers, the wait almost seems worth it. Even though at times it seems like they were running from nothing, the audience makes at least some very broad assumptions about the killer. I can almost guarentee that whatever this assumption is, it isn’t accurate. There isn’t much gore at all, but when we find out the truth behind what has been happening, it is more twisted and grotesque than any bloody gore scene could be. It makes you question society and what kind of mind frame the killers could have had. What made them become this way. It appears that they don’t even see themselves as doing anything wrong at all, but blame their victims instead.

There also didn’t seem to be too much consistency. Within the first 5 minutes of the movie, 2 people die. This fast paced killing is immediately put to a halt though. There is a threat of it, but we really aren’t in a similar situation at all until the very end of the film. This was to grab our attention, but it didn’t stick with this pattern, making the following slow pace of the film seem to take even longer to get through. The killing in the beginning and the kidnapping at the end are completely different. At the beginning, it is a very quick thing. The first woman killed doesn’t even have a chance to make a single noise, making her daughter completely unaware that her mother has just been murdered. The kidnapping is drawn out much longer though. The killers mess around with them for quite some time before they even strike. When they do and have them just where they want them, there is an emphasis on making them suffer and the killers really getting joy from playing with them and doing whatever they choose. This leads to the point that although, Them, is based on a true story it is very loosely based on it. The first two killings were just added to the film and weren’t a part of the real story, explaining the vast difference in the way the victims were treated. The original story took place in the Czech Republic where an Austrian couple, while at their vacation home, were murdered by three killers. Aside from that, the rest is made up by the filmmakers. Being based on a true story does make it seem more real and scary, but even looking at it just as fiction, there are some flaws.

I think Them would have worked much better as a short film. A lot of the beginning could be cut out. We would still have time to meet our protagonists and care for them, having the tension build, with just enough time for the climatic and shocking ending to kick in, leaving a lasting impression. As frustrating as it was to wait to the ending, once I got there, it really put everything in to perspective. It was hard to believe that after all that time, the killers were what I was seeing before my eyes. It all seemed worth it at that point though. Them is definitely a film you have to watch with patience. It is also a film I highly recommend to everyone just for that reaction and sense of surprise it exerts. Even once you get to that point and learn who is really the antagonist behind the film, it doesn’t stop there. Clearly the killers were influenced by others. It is most likely that this happened indirectly. Whatever or whoever influenced them most likely had no idea what they were doing to these future killers who clearly had some sort of mental inability to see their actions for what they were.

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