Saturday, April 11, 2009

Ils/Them (2006)

Directors: David Moreau, Xavier Palud
Writers: David Moreau, Xavier Palud
Actors: Olivia Bonamy, Michael Cohen

Rating: 3 1/2 Black Sheep

The French film Ils, or as known by its American title Them, is essentially a well-crafted home invasion thriller/horror film. I'm going to say right up front that I loved it. I have been watching horror films since I was a kid and very few movies have scared me as an adult. Haute Tension definitely had me on the edge of my seat during the "high tension" moments, but Them actually had me freaked out. To be fair, I have a real fear of someone coming into my home and attacking me so it was definitely playing on those emotions. Also, I watched this film by myself, late at night so what was I expecting?

The story follows Clementine (Olivia Bonamy) home from work as a middle school teacher. She lives with her husband Lucas (Michael Cohen) in a house they have recently purchased and are in the process of renovating. Of course it is out in the middle of nowhere and the house is a ridiculously large mansion with a million rooms, nooks and crannies, all bad things when someone is trying to kill you. Once you suspend your disbelief that they would be living in such a space, you can really buckle down and enjoy the ride. Soon after dark, things begin happening like strange phone calls, noises outside, and appliances turning themselves on to let us know Lucas and Clementine are not alone. They spend the rest of the evening being terrorized and tormented. For me, what makes this film work is that for much of the time, we have no idea who or what is launching this attack and then there is no terrifying reveal of a monster or depraved attacker, instead you see just enough to know what is happening but you have to wait until the end to understand why. This film comes from directing team Moreau and Palud, the same guys who brought us the American remake of The Eye with Jessica Alba, a B- horror flick that doesn't live up to its original Chinese version directed by the Pang brothers. Hopefully their next venture will be closer in quality to Ils.

One more thing to note about this film: The American film The Strangers seems to borrow many elements from Ils although the director Bryan Bertino claims to have been inspired by Helter Skelter more than anything else. I just want to comment that I think it's sad that Hollywood seems to think that U.S. audiences need to have these films spoon-fed to them in Americanized versions that generally are never as good as the movies that inspire them. When the original versions are released here in America, more often than not they are dubbed in English, such is the case for Haute Tension, as if having to read subtitles is going to ruin our movie viewing experience. Are we really that unimaginative a people? I like to think most of us are better than that. (Of course I realize that this way, the studios make tons of money, but come on.)

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