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Ils – Them (2006)

them

Lucas and Clementine live peacefully in their isolated country house, but one night they wake up to strange noise… they’re not alone… and a group of hooded assailants begin to terrorize them throughout the night.

Them, or to give the film it’s official French title ‘Ils’ is a 2006 French horror film directed by David Moreau and Xavier Palud. It stars Olivia Bonamy who plays Clementine, a young teacher who has recently moved from France to a remote but idyllic country house near Bucharest, Romania with her lover Lucas played by Michael Cohen. It is reportedly based on true events involving an Austrian couple living in the Czech Republic.

After an opening sequence involving a mother and daughter, which sees the two assaulted by unknown enemies, we then see Clementine as she’s ending her workday as a schoolteacher. Driving home to her house in the country, she passes by the now abandoned SUV that belonged to the mother and daughter from the prologue. Clementine is oblivious to the significance of this sight, but we know that she’ll soon be encountering the same enemies that they did.

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Them tends to get compared to the american 2008 film ‘The Strangers’ (read my review of that here). Being home invasion movies the comparisons are obvious. However, anyone that reads my review of ‘The Strangers’ will see I wasn’t particularly thrilled or happy with what I saw. I feel that everything that was done wrong in that movie had no excuse, in Them there was the perfect blueprint for how this type of movie should play out. Whilst I felt ‘The Strangers’ had weak characters who made questionable choices, and with enemies who appeared as though they knew every move that the couple would make and where to find them hiding, Them had this done perfectly with the two leads very much in love and who hated to leave each others side, and the enemies definitely weren’t invincible or perfect human hunters! Lucas and Clementine seem like a natural couple; they have dinner together, they work, and they have a very convincing banter and fun with each other. It’s just a normal night, which allows the events that follow to take the limelight as the truly devastating piece of action. In ‘The Strangers’, though, I felt that the failed proposal was pointless, and if anything prevented any deeper character development.

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Back on plot now, and after going to bed Clementine starts to hear noises and this is when the games begin. Windows and doors slam shut around them. Their car seemed to take on a life of its own. The power goes out mysteriously. And then, they – or them – arrive. The terror and action starts in the house, with the standard cat and mouse chasing round rooms, with the couple desperate to find a way out. Clementine tries the attic but eventually they realise they will have to brave it and take their chances in the woods if they want to try and escape these unknown assailants.

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Them more than adequately manages to chill its audience, and it expertly utilizes its low-budget and grassroots production values to its advantage. The result is at times almost Blair Witch-esque, with flashlights lighting the way during point-of-view sprints through the woods. The movie had good pacing, good timing, and certainly good acting. The unknown part is the creepy, scary part; along with the protagonists, you’re not quite sure what is going on or why, or even who is perpetrating it. The entire mystery of Them is based on who or what the unknown assailants are — as the attacks on Clem and Lucas intensify, we begin to get a better glimpse of the villains, and yet it’s not until the very end of the picture that it all comes together as to the nature of these baddies. I won’t spoil that for anyone here, but I will say I was surprised in a good way and a bad way. Certain things became slightly more far-fetched, but then at the same time I had to applaud the directors for taking this approach.

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Sound is used brilliantly, in a disembodied way, there’s all sorts of cries and shrieks. There’s a rattling sound throughout which has the effect of making you jump, and we only find out at the end where this sound was coming from. There isn’t much gore on show, which is a good thing and works in favour of the movie’s atmosphere.

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The final act down in the sewer system is great, as we find out the identities of the enemies, their motivation and we get some really nice twists thrown in for good measures. Combined with the lights flickering on and off constantly, and the maze-like claustrophobic end location, the chase and events down here were excellent. There is really not a lot wrong with Them in my opinion. My only doubt came with the revelation of the enemies, but the more I think about it the more I can see why this was how it was, and certainly how it links back to our main leads, Clementine in particular. At 77 minutes it is a short film, but from the opening scene it really doesn’t let up and delivers a tension filled ride that shows yet again how good European cinema can be.

7 stars

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19 Comments

  1. I remember the first time we saw this film and I’ve got to say it gave me chills. I won’t mention my thoughts on the ‘reveal’ of the perpetrators but, like you, I was surprised and also bit saddened. The film was based on a ‘true story’ and that makes it all the more disturbing.

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    • Just found this comment in my spam folder along with another you made, so I apologise for the delay with replying Mike.

      Hmmm, yeah I was let down a little but the twists in the sewers kind of made up for it, plus the link back to Clementine could maybe of worked although I’m guessing with that. Hard as I don’t want to spoil it in-case people see it. I think it’s worth watching for the rest of it though, and as you say the ‘true story’ part, however similar is creepy.

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  2. theipc

     /  August 2, 2012

    I’ve ordered this twice from Netflix and each copy I’ve received has been too scratched to play. Whatever “Them”!

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  3. I hate home invasion movies, but unfortunately I think I’ll have to see this one now… !

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  4. I don’t like home invasion movies either, and this one actually made me angry. I wonder if that is the effect that is hoped for, and I’m the one doing it wrong by not acknowledging, “okay, this film was intended to create negative emotions, and it did, so it is a good film.”

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    • Hmmm, angry about which bit? Or just in general? I was frustrated slightly with the reveal as its already been mentioned, but overall I really liked it. Not the happiest of times though 🙂

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      • I was angry about the reveal, because how dare they, and then even more about the reason they did it. But I feel like the French horror of the last ten years has left me behind in general. I’d rather see someone bitten by a flying zombie head or something crazy like that than killed by a person who did it just for the hell of it. That’s why I admit that the problem is most likely with me, because I think there is something that appeals to fans of this type of movie that I am not getting. I will admit that Ils was well made, however.

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        • I tend to prefer my horror to be more realistic, which without giving it away the reveal in this was based on the real identities of the killers from the case this film is loosely based on. But I can see why you didn’t like it.

          Nice to see different opinions though, and there are plenty of films and genres I just don’t enjoy or ‘get’ when other people rave about them.

          Speaking of zombies I’ve just watched Rec 1, 2 & 3 this week. Best ‘zombie’ stuff I have seen for ages (well, not the 3rd film……..)

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        • Yes, Rec (didn’t see 2 or 3 yet) is absolutely one of the best horror films of the last decade and gives me hope for the future of the genre.

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        • 2 is excellent, 3 was poor……..my reviews will be up this weekend, but I was blown away by the first and was annoyed it took me so long to get round to watching it

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  5. Reading the comments, this film seems to strongly stir up some emotion. I’ll definitely have to watch.

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    • Similar to what I said to you about Funny Games (aside from the eggs, no need for them here!) maybe not one to watch alone if your not a fan of people breaking into houses 🙂 Aside from that a great film, and if you can empathise with the characters then you may get emotional, not a happy film that’s for sure!

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  6. Wissam

     /  September 21, 2012

    I’ve just watched this movie, and although I enjoyed it, I was a little disappointed because I was told beforehand that the movie has a twist ending that will blow my mind away.
    But not only did the ending not blow my mind away, I’m not even sure what the twist was.

    Sorry, but spoiler ahead:
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    Is it that the intruders turned out to be children? or that they did it because they simply wanted to play? And how exactly is that a twist?

    Another reviewer mentioned that the ending ties the facts of the real case with the plot of the movie, and that the opening sequence is very important to understand the twist. What is that about?

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    • I liked the ending but as I mentioned it seemed far-fetched. I think it was more the fact that it was just bored kids, and it was trying to send a message about the youth culture and the fact people are doing things like this because they can. The link being they were school kids, she was a teacher, and she drove past the car at the beginning that was from the opening scene. With her also being dragged away at the end we know its not a happy ending, and again at least its different. Not sure about it blowing anyone’s mind though…….

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  1. Martyrs (2008) | Head In A Vice
  2. Them (French title: ils) « HORRORPEDIA

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