French filmmakers David Moreau and Xavier Palud refreshed the tired old Hollywood horror formula with Them. They were lauded for producing just under 80 minutes of "gloriously sustained tension", with the minimum of special effects. Sadly the idea of watching innocents get slayed with subtitles appeared to scare off British moviegoers, but this surely has the makings of a cult classic on DVD.
Us And Them
Behind-the-scenes cameras rove the dreary streets of Bucharest, Romania for a half-hour investigation into the Making Of the film. Moreau and Palud explain how their 'documentary' approach to the action was really central to the concept. For instance, they doggedly resisted too much editing, preferring long, uninterrupted takes that allowed tension to build slowly and make the experience more immediate, not just for the audience, but for leading players Olivia Bonamy and Michaël Cohen too.
It was a physically gruelling shoot for the onscreen couple. We see Bonamy trying to overcome her fear of heights for a scene where she must climb a rickety ladder. It doesn't help knowing that Palud fell off the ladder and nearly broke an arm the day before. "I've never had so many bruises in my life!" she says later. Cohen is a little more sceptical and frankly a lot more wimpy when it comes to doing his own stunts. "It's not an actor's job!" he announces after being called on to fall over - from a height of zero... He suggests that this, and a few other scenes, may have been a matter of great debate with the directors. "It wasn't idyllic," he says of their relationship, "but there was a real dialogue."
A separate reel of behind-the-scenes footage sees Bonamy (as Clementine) having to endure more physical torture, and there's a mock TV report that hears Clementine's sister appealing for her safe return. But the marketing department obviously had too much time on their hands when it comes to a snippet of footage supposedly capturing a ghostly 'anomaly' at the old house where the film was shot. "The following excerpt is authentic," they insist, "and has been proven by independent experts to be entirely genuine." Yeah, tell it to The Blair Witch...
Settling The Score
A featurette on the score follows composer Rene-Marc Bini as he seeks inspiration and goes to work with a string orchestra. He talks about wanting to "dirty" the music, blending classical instruments with a synthesized sound to create something unique and unnerving.
Finally, there's a text-based feature called The Awful Truth. It's a jarring addition to the extras package, but during their time in production, the filmmakers were understandably moved by the ongoing plight of Romanian street children years after the execution of President Nicolae Ceaucescu. The article recounts the observations of BBC journalist Harold Briley in the 90s and reflects on current efforts to tackle the crisis.
Them is certainly an unconventional pick for horror buffs, but in a market overcrowded with mind-numbing slash-n-hack thrillers, that's why this DVD should scare up some interest.
Them (Ils) DVD is released on Monday 2nd July 2007.