Sunday, September 23, 2007

THEM

THEM
Original Title: ils
Directed by: David Moreau and Xavier Palud, France/Romania, 2006 Thriller / Mystery, 74min
Distributed by NOBLE FILM

Story:
One night Cleméntine [Olivia Bonamy] is awaken by strange sounds in the rural countryside house that she and boyfriend Lucas [Micahaël Cohen] are living in. She awakens Lucas and tells him that she thinks someone is in the house. The pair gathers up the courage to investigate, but as they walk around the house Cleméntine notices that their car isn’t parked in the place they left it. Lucas goes out to check, and the headlights flick on and blind him as the car skids away down the drive. Then the power goes out and strange lights start to shine into the house…
Me:
I didn’t know much about this movie when I sat down to watch it, more that the lame US tagline “The film that terrified Europe has come to America!”. So as I haven’t heard anything about this movie before and I live in Europe, I was quite interested to find out what it was about. Is it a ghost story? Is it a gory horror movie? Is it a strange sci-fi? As the opening titles with the “Based on a true story” and a quite routine opening sequence; Something on the road, car swerves into ditch, one person goes out to check while the other waits inside the dark car, then a series of weird events are supposed to freak us out… blah, blah, blah, nothing that we haven’t seen previously, and I started getting fidgety. This is going to suck I thought. But then we leave the horror formula and directors Moreau and Palud start introducing their lead characters. And this they do with a great feeling and skill. After fifteen minutes we know what the two French characters are doing in Romania, we know what they work with, and we know the level/status of their relationship. So many times the directors rush into creating a scary scenario that they completely miss the main ingredient in horror/thriller drama; Do we really give a fuck about the poor sods about to have terrible things happen to them. Apart from decent character establishment, both leads are very good looking, not drop dead gorgeous, but everyday good looking which adds to the lure of drawing the viewer in. The acting is really good, and honestly believable. No sudden, over human feats that have you going, But come on if that just happened there’s no way he’d be able to…, just down toned realism. And that is a key note for Ils, and probably why I found myself really being drawn into this impressive shocker. There is a very bold “low key” feel to the entire movie, and it really works well, the cameras are obviously handheld, possibly DV, and the lighting isn’t the existing light, but it sure looks like it in the darker sets, all of this adds to create a documentary, or realistic feel to the movie if you like, and that is a very effective way of portraying a “based on true events” kind of movie. Also the small details that set the characters into a very believable world, the way that Cleméntine taunts Lucas when he says that a writer is always working even if he isn’t sitting at his computer, the loveable bickering during their very minimalist dinner, the way that the directors dare take time to show them sitting together watching a TV show that they don’t understand, just to pass time before hitting the sack for the night. It’s a very “honest” scene that is set. What I also liked about Ils is the fact that instead of keeping the “Them” as a strange unidentified entity, Moreau and Palud just leave it be and you pretty soon start putting the pieces together and figure it out. This isn’t a ghost story, this isn’t a weird sci-fi, this isn’t a supernatural horror film, it’s playing straight to the heart and the most terrifying thing that you could ever imagine, an unknown person walking in off the street and entering your “safe” home! If you ever have had anyone walk into your house in the middle of the night, like I have, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Keeping in line with the realistic approach, there’s not any silly “you go this way I’ll go that way” scenes either, the few times that Cleméntine and Lucas are separated is all done in a believable way. All this adds up to create a very effective movie, and once again proves that less is more. There are no big scary shock music keys, matter of fact keeping with the realism note, there’s hardly any music in the movie at all, so you can’t figure out, oh here’s the score key coming in, something’s going to happen warning signals, there’s no over the top special effects, just down to earth realistic terror.

So if you haven’t seen Ils, the movie that supposedly terrified Europe, I suggest that you stop what you are doing and watch this movie as soon as possible, because I can bet you that this movie will be picked up and remade in the US pretty soon and probably loose most of its realistic, but scary charm.

Image:

Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1.
Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian, Danish, and English subtitles are optional.

Audio:
French and Romanian language, in Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS

Extras:
On the Scandinavian release there is only a half hour making of feature, but this is a very informative feature where the directors and actors talk about what they wanted to create and bring to the movie with them.