Edinburgh International Film Festival

Them (2006)

Starring: Olivia Bonamy, Michael Cohen

Directed by: Xavier Palud and David Moreau

Rating: 1 2 3 4

Olivia Bonamy in French scary movie Them

'The scariest film you've ever seen' the poster boasts in ominous capital letters. So scary, in fact, that at the UK premier of this French horror film, each member of the audience is given a branded stress ball. Can any film live up to such hype? Face it, The Blair Witch Project and Hostel didn't, so will Them (or Ils, to give it its French title) fare any better? The suspense is killing me.

'You will never feel safe in your home again' the verbose poster goes on to proclaim. Well, possibly not, if, like our ill-fated couple Clem and Lucas, you live in a huge, rambling, dilapidated mansion in the middle of nowhere, complete with creaking floorboards, miles of dimly-lit corridors, a faulty fusebox buried in a dank, dark cellar and a vast attic you've never been into, which is crammed with creepy junk and festooned with spooky plastic sheets. If you live in a normal house, you probably won't have such a problem.

That said, this is still a fairly scary film, especially at the beginning, which rivals Scream for its bravura opening shockfest. Yes, we've all seen the 'car breaks down on lonely road one dark and stormy night' before, but never quite like this. And then we have poor Clem and Lucas, alone in their big spooky house in the wilds of rural Snagov, in Romania. First it's the mysterious, whispery phone call, then the car that appears to drive away by itself, and, most nightmarish of all, the sinister hooded intruders who have the place surrounded. And guess what, it doesn't take them long to break in.

Yup, time to ratchet the tension up to 11 and squeeze your stress balls, folks, because the scenes within the house are excellently handed, dripping with malice and administering shocks in all the right places, with minimal 'you stay here while I go down into the cellar on my own' nonsense to annoy you. Unfortunately this level of fear isn't really maintained once the couple make their escape, leading to some fairly standard, 'stumbling through the forest at night' footage followed by a final 'twist' that isn't really all that surprising. Yup, Snagov may be the final resting place of one Vlad Dracul, but it turns out that the threat facing our couple is somewhat more corporeal than the undead Count and his bloodsucking cohorts. And if you've had your wits about you, it probably won't be too much of a spoiler to add that, while we may think we have a problem with 'hoodies' in Britain, it ain't nothing compared to Romania.

On a scale of one to ten (where ten is The Exorcist and one is Jaws IV) I'd say Them is about a six - scary enough to glue you to your seat at the pictures, but not scary enough to cause any permanent mental damage. But all the same, I'd check your doors are securely locked before you go to bed.

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