Ils (Them) Movie Review

Christopher Horton

Them___Ils_(2006)I have already prepared myself for the onslaught of negativity that will come with my opinion of this film.  I sat in my living room floor, cross legged, chanting a mantra: ” I will not care what people on the internet say”….

I am writing in a Zen state. Do your worst, internet. I can take it.

“Ils” is a French-Romanian horror movie, filmed in Bucharest and directed by Xavier Palud. It’s on a lot of people’s “Top Ten Lists” for disturbing horror. French directors have really built themselves a reputation over the past decade, and I think that it’s a reputation that is nearly impossible to live up to. That being said, I did not take into account the country of origin when viewing this film.

Do you ever see a trailer for a film and you say “WOW! I have to see that”. But then you forget about it? That’s what happened to me, with this film. I somehow just forgot. Plus, when it first came out, it was hard to find/buy on DVD for me. Something akin to me having to bring a sacrifice and two golden dragon eggs to a back alley, with the secret password to “Jerry the French DVD Headhunter”. I just didn’t want to jump through hoops to see this film.

“Ils” follows Clementine, a school teacher from France teaching in Bucharest. She and her boyfriend Lucas have bought a huge house off the beaten path, in the woods. They seem very happy, and are adjusting to their new environment.  That is, until someone starts messing with them in the middle of the night. What seems like someone having a little fun, soon turns deadly.

Let’s check out the good things first. Olivia Bonamay (Clementine) is fantastic in her role.  You can really feel the fear that she is feeling throughout the movie. She and Micheal Cohen (Lucas) basically carry the whole movie, as our antagonists never really show themselves until the end. The dialog is well written, and the couple seems like they have known each other for a long time. Both of our leads have a long history of French cinema and television, and the movie has an “A-list” feel.

The cinematography is also very good, and I love the house that they chose for the main setting. In real life, it is so big that they couldn’t even afford to furnish or use the whole house for the movie, according to the movie’s wiki. Like any good horror film, the set/setting has to feel like a character. That is certainly achieved. You get the full effect of being alone, in the woods, away from civilization. The first scene of the film is a real scare. It sets the tone, and shows you just how scary a dark country road can be.

Well, it seems like I am really talking this film up, huh? That is a lot of praise for a film with such a low rating! What are my gripes?

Let me start with a huge one.

What is this “Based on true events” B.S.?  What true events? Google all you want, I couldn’t find an actual consensus. No one seems to know what “true events” this film references. By this logic, “Star Wars”  could be “based on true events”.  The end of the film even tells you the official Police story, in the aftermath of the events. If anyone reading this article can prove me wrong, then please post a link in the comments section to these “actual events”. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind if a film is a bastardized, over-dramatized version of an event that actually occurred. But just flat-out making stuff up? I feel like it’s cheap.

My other huge gripe, is the terrible choices that our characters make. I expect a horror film to be rife with characters that make some really dumb choices. But this is a whole new level. Especially when the “twist” is revealed. I could go on and on, but I don’t want to give away any plot details. But by the end, I felt like our characters got everything they deserve. Because they are dumb. I do a lot of screaming at the television as it is ( have you watched TV lately?) and I would rather spend my movie viewing time enjoying a film. Not yelling at the characters because they are idiots. Characters that could have been played by giant gerbils by the second half of the movie. Run and panic, repeat.

So I am completely unapologetic to all of the people that have this one on their “Top Ten” lists. I don’t see how this sits among the ranks of “Livide”,  “Inside”, “Martyrs”, “Frontieres” or “High Tension”. I am at a loss. Once the “twist” is revealed, this film becomes just ridiculous. I understand the suspension of disbelief, but I can only go so far.

2.5 / 5 stars     


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      1. Dana Hill December 7, 2013 at 7:04 pm

        I saw this a few years ago. It’s ok. I think it’s inspired by real events.

      2. cinthia December 7, 2013 at 10:25 pm

        when this movie came out, it was a great movie. I remember seeing it and falling in love with it because it was so different than the movies of that time. But nowadays, we have better movies. So of course films like livide, frontieres, inside etc are better and with each new one they make it gets more and more incredible.

        I remember reading an article on the based on true events back then, it had appeared in the news but that was back in 2005 or so, so I don’t know where I could find information to this. But you are right to be suspicious because nowadays I think that saying it was based on real events and all their other phrases it’s used too common and not always true.

        I also agree about the dumb choices they made, especially in the end….but still it was way better than many other movies I’ve seen. I see it as a step toward better movies :) And french from france seem to make better movies everytime we see a new one so :)

      3. Kendall Keeling December 7, 2013 at 11:11 pm

        I liked it a lot more than The Strangers, which is the American copy. Which has also shown up on a lot of “most disturbing” lists.

      4. Daniel Loubier December 9, 2013 at 1:44 pm

        Hey Christopher, you’re not alone. I, too, found this movie on many a top ten list. I thought the film was decent, but not quite “top ten” material. I think for me it was a case of hype vs. expectation. Consider just how many horror movies have been made in the last 10 years. Then consider your top ten. To pick the top ten over 10 years would have to indicate these are 10 near-masterpieces of the genre. “Ils” is no masterpiece, but it’s more than serviceable. It doesn’t suck, but to me, it’s forgettable. As an aside, I’ve read a lot of comparisons between Ils and Citadel, and how Ils is a far superior film. I tend to disagree (I know, people love opinions. Oh well.). Citadel, though mainly focused on only one protagonist as opposed to two, greatly benefited by a strong performance by it’s lead actor, a creepy location, as well as a great back story (I’ll leave it out for those who haven’t seen it). An additional entry into this subgenre, Eden Lake, is probably my favorite: two VERY strong performances, remote setting, great kid-villains, and an ending you don’t want, but has to be because it makes perfect sense. Anyway, good piece. I enjoyed reading your perspective!

      5. thecouchzombie December 9, 2013 at 6:26 pm

        So, let me get this straight… you argue this movie sucks because it uses the overused marketing tool of “Based on true events” and because the people in the Horror MOVIE make dumb choices. Is this your first Horror film screening because if this is the criteria by which Horror movies suck then they all suck.

        • Christopher Horton December 9, 2013 at 8:01 pm

          You are exactly who I worte the disclaimer for. Yes. I think the “Based on true events” movies are dumb. It’s a cheap tactic to get you more involved with sympathy for the characters. It’s cheap, and dumb.

          And the choices are more than unbelievable, once it is revealed who their attackers are. It takes you out of the movie and pisses you off, because it is engaging in the beginning. I expect bad, unbelievable choices from a shitty b-movie that never engages me. But hey, this isnt one of those.

        • Pete July 14, 2015 at 2:03 am

          The only ‘true events’ are that a French couple was murdered by children in Romania. The actual string of events was obviously pure fiction — the couple are not alive to tell anyone what happened.

          So the dumb choices they made were pure fiction. So, i think what Chris was saying is that the writers could have made the story more believable and had them make more sensible decisions. After all they were supposed to be intelligent people.

      6. Matthew Klapmeyer December 11, 2013 at 6:06 am

        I must have this film

      7. Pete July 14, 2015 at 1:47 am

        I agree with every word. I’m tired of these horror films where the main characters are so stupid. But perhaps we too would act the same? Perhaps fear robs you of all common sense?

        Even so, I find these films leave me feeling depressed and somehow cheated. I saw this one on TV, but I would never pay to see a horror film any more. Film makers seem unable to distinguish between real creepy horror and tedious dreary horror.