A young French Couple living in Romania become the targets of a home invasion.
When it comes to the home invasion thriller, most of the time you have two probable outcomes. You either have a viewing experience that feels predictable and mundane; or you walk away feeling shaken to your very foundations.
Thankfully, the 2006 French film Them (Ils) falls into the latter of those two categories. This is not only one of the best entries in the subgenre; it’s also one of the most terrifying you’ll sit down with. If you were able to combine the atmosphere of Calvaire with the unsettling nature of Funny Games, this would be the end result.
There have been several films of this nature released over the years, and separating the wheat from the chaff has not always been easy. Unlike other genres, there is no way to instantly tell that something will be a disappointment or not, you just have to sit through one and hope for the best. The elements that make home a good home invasion are fear, terror, panic, and paranoia. Them (Ils) combines all of those with a mixture of lighting and sound that creates an atmosphere not soon forgotten.
Our story is focused on a young French couple, named Clem and Lucas. They’re your typical successful young couple, one we can identify with right away. In a lot of ways, they’re the couple that lives next door. In this case however, they reside in an isolated villa in Romania. This helps set up the scenario that we’re about to undertake, what’s more terrifying knowing there’s no one around to hear you scream?
The events that make up the invasion in this one are very different than what you might normally expect. This one could have followed a formula we’re used to seeing, with people breaking in, the family being taunted by their captors, and the essential cat-and-mouse game. However, this one takes a different approach, and it’s one that makes this film as terrifying as it is. Rather than have the intruders break in and reveal themselves straightaway, most of the emphasis is placed on the unknown.
The couple hearing strange sounds and experiencing even stranger occurrences executes this. You might typically see this is a haunted house movie, but here that terror is brought front and center. Real horror is what you don’t see; the fear of the unknown is the greatest fear of all. The very fact that we don’t know who or what our antagonists are at first really builds the atmosphere here. We have no idea weather they’re human, or there’s a supernatural force at work.
Aside from being a well-written angle, it allows the film to take on a life of its own. It shifts focus on the struggle our protagonists are going through, and the futility of their situation. Furthermore, it’s proof that you don’t need an excessive amount of violence to make a horror film that resonates with you.
Review by Jerome Reuter (@JeromeReuter)