Archive for Them

There’s a world going on Underground

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on December 8, 2008 by dcairns



ILS (THEM) is a recent French horror movie by David Moreau and Xavier Palud that Fiona was keen to see (I’m blaming her) and which she grabbed when it came into the charity shop she works at. (Moreau and Xavier are both EXCELLENT names if you’re going to make a horror film, by the way.)It’s elegantly made, building suspense out of long handheld probes into darkened corridors as a French schoolteacher and her partner are terrorised by intruders in a Romanian country house.

The sound design is fantastic and there are plenty of scares: “I don’t like it!” Fiona cried at intervals, as tension mounted. Later we heard that our friend Nicola took her partner to the cinema to see it and had to leave because he was too scared. It is pants-wetting stuff.

It’s also racist stuff: there seems no reason for it to be set in Romania except to “justify” the appearance of unmotivated psychopaths. Eastern Europe seems to be getting the villain treatment a lot, even as Hollywood invades the place with superproductions in search of cheap labour.

The film actually gets less scary as it goes on, because they leave the house and there’s just not the intensity of terror in open air. The home invasion theme is so strong, I don’t know why they didn’t milk it for the whole movie (it’s only 75 minutes long!) — one answer may be that the filmmakers are just not that good at plotting, and couldn’t come up with variations of the siege situ. It’s one of those films where the protagonists are always doing really stupid things, like NOT phoning the police when they have the chance, which does admittedly energise the audience and get them shouting at the screen, but I wonder if it wouldn’t be more compelling, long-term, if the characters did the smart thing and STILL got in trouble.


After skulking around in the bushes for a while, the movie heads underground, and the locations are impressive as we descend down a Lost-style shaft and into a labyrinth of subterranean concrete, eventually getting trapped against a grill that looks out onto a motorway. By the way, I’ve been in one of those tunnels you see under the motorway embankments and it wasn’t connected to any labyrinth but listen

— in movies, all the tunnels are connected, because they burrow throught the celluloid and into the underfilm, where all the tunnels are connected, and at any turning you might come face to face with Erik the opera house phantom or a stop-motion cyclops with goat legs that he never had in the myths or the blind pit ponies that we were meant to care about as kids in ESCAPE FROM THE DARK because all the tunnels are connected.