For those of you that grew up as I did, that would be punk rock, you may remember the excitement of shopping for new records. Then was a time when you could trust a record label. If the album came out on Lookout Records or SST, it was a pretty safe bet that it was going to be good. Or, as my friend Nate put it, if it had a skateboard on it, we bought it. Of course, times change and that method of shopping for music isn’t always as fruitful as it used to be. As a matter of fact, I can’t even remember a time in recent years when I’ve bought a record solely because of the record label or cover art… tragic really, it seems such an adventurous way to discover new things. It’s rather sad that, as bitter adults, we don’t take quite so many risks with our hard earned cash as we used to. It’s with this in mind that you can imagine my excitement when I found myself doing this with film lately. I’ve begun trusting distributors like Blue Underground and Anchor Bay as much as I trusted SST 15 years ago, and thank God I put my money on Dark Sky this time, otherwise I would have missed out on the brilliantly crafted French thriller, “Them”.
The plot isn’t exactly breaking new ground, but it is executed with such tension that it provides genuine thrills with hints of the classics of the 50s and 60s. When Clem and her boyfriend, Lucas, move from France to a rural part of Romania they have no idea what is in store for them in their new remote home. One night, after turning in for the night, Clem hears noises outside the window. When she looks out into the yard she notices that her car has moved from where she had parked it to a different part of the driveway. As she and Lucas go out to investigate the car suddenly comes to life and is driven off by an unknown thief. The couple then try to contact the police to report the theft but are unable to get through. Realizing that there is nothing they can do at that moment they return to bed. A few hours pass when they are woken again, this time by music playing on the record player downstairs. When Lucas goes downstairs to check the house we finally come to realize that they are no longer alone in the house and what ensues is a nightmarish evening of mind games and torture as the couple is stalked through the house and it’s surrounding areas by a group of unknown assailants. The couple do their best to fight back against the gang, but constantly seem to be out numbered , opting instead to flee. The film comes to a head in the underground tunnels of the small Romanian town as Lucas and Clem reach a dead end and are left to fend off the attackers.
In a time when horror films seem to be more interested in grossing us out than actually scaring us (a theme I spend far too much time bitching about), “Them” is a refreshing return to the tense and frightening films of the 1970s. A time when the director didn’t need to show me a person being sliced up (not that I mind that sort of thing) to make me edgy and scared. The frantic camera work makes the viewer as uneasy as the main characters being chased through the house while the remaining parts of the film come together to provide a wonderfully chilling tale that keeps you on the edge from it’s ambiguous beginning to it’s shocking end.