Them (2006)

Lucas and Clementine live in a huge isolated house deep in the French countryside. One night they’re unfortunate enough to be visited by mysterious hooded assailants in the middle of the night. Naturally, they’re pretty damn scared and a fight to survive ensues.

The home invasion theme is pretty familiar territory these days but Ils is one of the best and most effective films on the subject. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of anything more terrifying than the prospect of having my own home invaded and that is the films main strength. Moreau and Palud take full advantage of the claustrophobic setting to magnificent effect. I, along with the lead characters, felt as if I were being attacked. Put simply, it made me want to double and triple check that all my windows and doors were locked and sleep with a weapon under my pillow, just for safe measure. There aren’t that many horror movies that get under my skin in the same way. The threat is so very real and the tension is palpable throughout.

It was shot entirely in Romania and the setting is perfect. The house, despite being enormous, lends itself very well to the story and it’s claustrophobic outline, and the woods around it make for formidable surroundings.

Many people have criticized the fact that the assailants are, in fact, merely children. The film is populated by feral children who, seemingly, aren’t governed by any of the same laws as we are. I can only assume that those criticizing this aspect are from outside Europe as the threat of violence from mere teens is completely ostensible here in the UK. The seas of dead-eyed, ASBO-possessing children, shouting threats and spitting in the street are all too prolific these days. Barely a day goes by that there isn’t a news article detailing violent and despotic children and therefore Ils is not only plausible, it’s probable.

From the very first scene, you get the impression that this is a film that will pull no punches. There’s nothing particularly original about it, in fact it’s a scene that the avid horror fan will be all too familiar with; broken down car, dead of night, eerie noises, but somehow it feels fresh. The acting isn’t Oscar-worthy but the characters are well drawn and believable and more importantly, you want them to live! Now, I don’t normally condone violence towards minors but in this case, I was praying that they would get a very deserved arse-kicking.

I was a little disappointed to learn that the supposed true story that this film is based on was manipulated and exaggerated for cinematic effect. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, I just wish the filmmakers hadn’t played up the ‘true story’ angle so much, complete with text at the end telling the audience what happened after the fact. That ploy just feels a little exploitative of the audience and pretty unnecessary. Whether or not it’s a true story doesn’t detract from the fact that it’s a bloody scary film when all is said and done.

At only 77 minutes, it’s a very short film but despite that, I didn’t feel remotely cheated. The filmmakers successfully delivered 77 minutes of genuine terror and for that they should give themselves a pat on the back.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

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