Wednesday, April 02, 2008

ON DVD: THEM

Aesthetically, Them shares a lot with its French sadist-horror film contemporaries: a cold & steely tone, humorless, and artfully shot. Yet, co-directors David Moreau and Xavier Palud aren't interested in letting the camera linger on scuzzy brutality like in Haute Tension, Sheitan, Inside, or In My Skin. (Look for Xavier "Hitman" Gens to continue that trend when his import Fronteir(s) hits theaters this July). Nor are they interested in Haneke-style cutaways. At it's core, Them hearkens back to classic cat-and-mouse horror.

Because of its basic plot - a couple under siege in their home by a group of hooded hoodlums - Them is able to keep its focus on the building anxiety, and literally, the anxiety inside the building. The house is storied and spacious, yet when the uninvited charge in, the corridors tighten up and the attic becomes the only exit. The sound effects, especially, are effective in giving some shape to the faceless killers... and geez, for the first time since, maybe, Vacancy, the film actually shakes the nerves.

Still, after the 77 minute buzz, Them leaves you empty. If it's simply a visceral experience you're after, you'll be temporarily satisfied, but if you demand more of your horror films, hold out for George Romero's Diary of the Dead... coming soon to DVD. It's no longer a question of "if", but of "how long", this tail spin of European and American horror films will last. Were it not for their Asian counterparts, the genre would be off its decade long life support and waiting for a dark prince to come kiss it awake.

Finally, what of the "based on a true events" that introduces and epilogues Them? Sure, it gives the film a bit of the it's-NOT-only-a-movie, it's-NOT-only-a-movie... edge, but it should also make one question how ethical this tragedy turned into entertainment equation is. It's unclear how true to the actual events Moreau and Palud kept their film, but if the script was born from the testimony of the teens, then it's a pretty sick undertaking (no pun intended...). It reminds me of Rob Zombie's Halloween. Zombie's only goal was to get as close as he could to visually replicating what a real true-crime murder was like. This ain't scary, this ain't horror, it ain't even good ol' slashing and goring b-moving fun! This is boring pseudo-snuff.

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