Retitled Them for international release, Ils is exemplar of the sorry state the horror genre is in today. Clocking in at a measly 77 minutes, it’s an exercise in derivation: with handheld HD immediacy, melodramatic
shouting acting, aggressively passé music and cheap, “it’s behind you!” scares.
Getting off to a good start, Ils begins with a genuinely terrifying prologue, completely irrelevant to the proceeding movie. A quarreling mother and daughter are abducted by the roadside. It’s dark, it’s raining, there waxing lyrical in Romanian; above all, it’s tautly constructed scares. From there, it goes all down hill when we meet French language school teacher Clementine (Olivia Bonamy) and her novelist husband Lucas (Michael Cohën). After a day’s work, they head back to their rural mansion for dinner, cultural waffle, then bed. Standard married life, until they start to hear noises from outside.
From here on in, Ils is just one long, repetitive game of hide and seek with the terrified couple making typically bad, horror decisions (splitting up, hiding in the house attic, failing to pick up *any* blunt weighty objects etc.,) in their pursuit to get away from the tenacious group of menaces lurking on their property.
One irrevocable level of annoyance comes when writer-director duo David Moreau and Xavier Palud pull the well-worn ‘based on a true story’ card at the top and end of the movie. Give over! Them is such a story-free romp of hackneyed scare conventions, that the only decree of truth in the production is how derivative it is to other classic hide-and-seek horror films like Carpenter’s seminal Halloween or found footage frolic The Blair Witch Project.
Although it may trite, I would be lying if I said that Ils didn’t have me on the edge of my seat, biting my nails and averting my eyes on more than one occasion. Moreau and Palud clearly have the chops to make decent jumps, now they need to show some artistic flare.