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Them (David Moreau and Xavier Palud, 2006)


    A reasonable amount of directorial competency is deployed to little overall effect in David Moreau and Xavier Palud’s French thriller Them. A terror tale with some tangential relationship to actual events, the movie is neither as nasty nor as leanly constructed as it seems to think it is. Too slickly made to feel tawdry and too thinly conceived to be subversive, it flits by without much incident. Even considering Them’s scant 73 minute running time, there is nearly as much plodding padding here as in the average horror film. Though things pick up a little in the movie’s second half, thanks to the fact that the script descends into what is essentially an extended chase scene, it soon becomes apparent that there is a very fine line between an effective suspense sequence and an endless series of shots in which someone walks very slowly down a hallway. The essentially nonexistent characterizations do little to help matters.

    Them employs a very limited bag of tricks to make audiences jump, with much banging on doors and flashing of lights in its earlier scenes. After a brief opening sequence, the action settles on a young couple who discover that they aren't alone in their home. The hijinks that follow are machinelike in their predictable efficiency. When the revelation of the threat to their marital bliss is finally made clear, the unmasking of the boogeyman decidedly reduces the overall impact of what's come before. Even though one of the genre’s unspoken taboos is being broken, with this plot twist, the effect remains trivial, since the film is so clearly a stylistic exercise (one that falters considerably due to the drab video cinematography). Ultimately inconsequential, partially because it's so obviously a Hollywood calling card (indeed, the directors are now working on an American remake of The Pang Brothers' The Eye) Them is inoffensive enough that it's difficult to be actively annoyed by its audience manipulation for its own sake.




Jeremy Heilman