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  THEM

The first decade of the ‘00s produced many tight and lean 1970s inspired horror fests, but none leaner than this no-frills 2005 suspensor from Romania.

The Package
     As with the seventies movies that inspired it (namely THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT and THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE), THEM (ILS) opens with the words “Based on a True Story.” That claim isn’t entirely false, as the movie was inspired by an actual incident of Romanian teenagers who senselessly murdered a couple, but the events of the film are largely the invention of its writer/directors David Moreau and Xavier Palud (who’ve since helmed the Hollyweird bummer THE EYE).
     THEM closely resembles recent stripped-down roughies like WOLF CREEK and THE STRANGERS. Like those films, this one contains little in the way of originality but excels in skill and energy.

The Story
     Late one night a young woman and her mother are brutally slaughtered by unseen killers.
     Living in a secluded forest nearby are the pretty young schoolteacher Clementine and her hubbie Lucas. In bed the following night Clementine is awakened by a noise outside. She and Lucas venture downstairs to investigate…and the fun begins!
     Somebody steals Lucas’ car and nearly runs him down with it. Next the power to Lucas and Clementine’s house is cut, and a band of hooded assholes outside pound on the walls, poke a stiletto through the front door peephole and eventually break into the house. Clementine and Lucas dash into the woods, where Lucas decides he can’t go on. The two split up, with Lucas tracking down his car, abandoned in the woods, and beating to death one of his tormentors--who turns out to be a young child. There follows a desperate dash through a local sewer, which leads Lucas directly to…

The Direction
     There’s nothing here you haven’t seen before, but directors David Moreau and Xavier Palud have provided a tightly focused and unerringly suspenseful film. From the opening moments the filmmaking is sparse and concise to a fault, meaning no in-depth character development or subplots. Such an approach may seem easy, but in reality it takes a considerable amount of skill to pull off a film as concentrated as this one.
     The tension of the early scenes is developed with real ingenuity, building to a fever pitch around the thirty minute mark. What follows is a chillingly sustained chase through a succession of claustrophobic settings marked by grit and unflinching brutality. The roving digital camerawork is extremely mobile yet still tightly controlled, and the editing smooth and streamlined with nary a wasted frame. The film is only 77 minutes long, which is appropriate.
     But THEM pays a heavy price for its single-mindedness. Exciting though it is, it’s also relentlessly one-note and ultimately forgettable. As superbly made, edge-of-the-seat horror THEM more than satisfies, but viewers desiring something--and I do mean anything--else will go home hungry.
 

Vital Statistics

THEM (ILS)
Eskwad Studiocanal--Castel Film

Directors: David Moreau, Xavier Palud
Producer: Richard Grandpierre
Screenplay: David Moreau, Xavier Palud
Cinematography: Axel Cosnefroy
Editing: Nicolas Sarkissian
Cast: Olivia Bonamy, Michael Cohen, Adriana Moca, Maria Roman, Camelia Maxim, Alexandru Boghiu, Emanuel Stefanuc, Horia Ioan, Stefan Cornic, George Iulian
 

     

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