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THEM (ILS)
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Reviewed by: Dave Murray

Directed by: David Moreau, Xavier Palud

Starring:
Olivia Bonamy
Michael Cohen

Movie:  
star star star star
Extras:  
star star star star
Overall:  
star star star star
What's it about
What begins as ominous sounds in the night escalates into a full blown fight for survival and a night of sheer terror, as young couple Lucas and Clementine 's ideal country life becomes a living hell at the hands of their shadowy tormentors. Just who, or what, is hunting them, and will they even live through the night?
Is it good movie?
Why do French horror movies, and European horror in general, make me feel like I just got spanked? Because they are just that damn good. I went into watching Moreau and Palud's ils armed with knowledge of some great reviews, but with no inkling of the final twist. And while that twist was a bit of a let down (and for me, a piss off), the whole package kicked my sorry ass all over the playground. Not since Haute Tension have I been so thoroughly riveted by atmosphere and sheer mounting dread, and trust me, that is saying something. This film, despite a short running time of a tight 77 minutes, managed to be topical, tension filled, moody as hell, stylish and sporting some great performances, and all of that was done with two actors and only a couple of locations. Nicely done!

Aside from the acting, two things dominate this movie. The first is tension, which European filmmakers seem to know a lot about. Much like Aja's films, almost every frame is a visual work of art, and every scene is an exercise in intensity and atmosphere. The house location is awesome, dingy and bare bones and very creepy. The first chunk of the movie is filmed in a soft and warmly inviting mood, until about a half hour in, when the tension kicks into high gear. The house gets even creepier when the power is cut, and here we get the crafty use of flashlights to create tension. It's too bad that all of the menace of the attackers was later ruined by having them whoop and moan like gut shot howler monkeys during the chase through the woods. Talk about a let down! The other thing this flick had going for it was the soundtrack. They made very careful use of sound effects and boo scare cues, it's almost as much an auditory film as it is visual. And the score by Rene-Marc Bini was alternately sad/haunted and tense/piercing. It was a great and strangely stirring compliment to the action on screen.

And as for those two performances, Olivia Bonamy is both believable and gorgeous as Clem, and it is really her character that carries the film as the emotional center. Michael Cohen is great as the husband Lucas, but since he was the main perpetrator of the old "stupid people doing stupid shit" horror cliche, he came off as more than a little retarded. Other than making some dumbass decisions, his character was laid back and interesting, and a nice contrast to his wife.

All in all, this was an excellent exercise in fear over gore, even though the twist ending kind of robbed the film of all of the tension and fear that it had built up. It was a disturbing ending, and original which I am in love with, but it was a little anticlimactic and weak. And to think that this was based on a true story, now that's creepy. But for the sheer fact that the flick scared the piss out of me more than once (that bloody hallway/stair/TV sequence!), this movie takes its place as one of the best I've seen in recent years. It's not perfect, but it comes damn close.
Video / Audio
Video: Widescreen - 2.33:1 .

Audio: French (Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0) and subtitles in English.
The Extras
Making Of Them (26:42): Here we have a featurette that gives us some insight into making a home invasion film inspired by true events. What I liked was the directors talking about writing the script, where all they tried to do was scare each other. This resulted in a movie that is more mood over dialogue, and since it scared me, I'd say the succeeded!

Composer Rene-Marc Bini Featurette (10:18): This is an interesting look at the process of a great modern film composer. And I loved the recording session, mostly because I love to see how the music from the movie is played, but also because some of the violinists were hot.

The Torture Of Clementine (7:14): This short making of bit shows us the rigors that Bonamy went through during the filming of her short torture scene in the sewer. It's a great look behind the scenes, and I love the location.

Finally, there are the French and U.S. Trailers. I like the French one better, but now I'm just nitpicking.
Last Call
Proving once again that some really freaky bad shit happens in Eastern Europe, Ils freaks you out and delivers the scares through simple and effective character drama and tense action. It stays away from the buckets of gore that we usually see in horror flicks these days, and it really didn't need it. This is one movie that gets by, and kicks ass, with tension, atmosphere and acting alone. Add to this a sweet soundtrack and an impressive score, and you've got one of the best tension fests so far this year. It pisses me off that Rogue Pictures is thinking of a remake of this one, because there is nothing wrong with the bloody original! Well, at least it's not Platinum Dunes. Moreau and Palud have the talent (despite their weak American remake of The Eye), and this movie should be released and enjoyed instead of another watered down remake with a WB cast! Any way you feel about it, check this one out. Damn near perfect horror.
ARROW IN THE HEAD'S RATING SYSTEM
star star star star I'D BUTCHER MY FAMILY TO SEE THIS AGAIN
star star star HANG ME BUT I DUG IT A LOT
star star AN OK WAY TO KILL TWO HOURS
star JUST SLING AN ARROW IN MY HEAD AND LET ME DIE IN PEACE

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