October Overlook Madness #1 – Them! (1954)


by Jaime Grijalba.

Welcome back everyone to the month and the days that most of us were expecting for: the 2016 edition of the October Overlook Madness! Let’s hear a round of applause for the grandiose comeback of this blog and its 31 reviews of 31 horror movies throughout the 31 days of October in celebration of Halloween. Well, without much further ado, let’s begin!

As you all know by this point, or will now soon be kept abreast about what’s going on, I review a horror film a day during October following the only guide of the man that turned me on to horror films: James D. Rolfe, with his series of videos that he puts up in October, the Cinemassacre’s Monster Madness, where he reviews a horror film a day. This year, in its tenth anniversary he has themed the days, and also has announced that it will be the last year that he’ll do 31 reviews. Sad!, as a fucking idiot would say, but I respect the sentiment and how hard it can be (hell, I don’t know how much longer I can do it) to continue such a tradition, but he will keep it somehow, but he won’t be doing 31 videos again. So, my guide gets… wobbly, to say the least, but I have other role models beyond The Nerd. So, in short, I see the film he reviews the day that he does it, and if I’ve seen it, I just go to my list of to-watch horror films and go chronologically upwards.

So, today’s first video was about the masterpiece ‘The Wicker Man’ (1973)-which you can watch here-, and as I’ve seen (and loved) this film, I am glad to start this 31 reviews by watching one of those films that have fascinated me to no end, and the oldest on my to-watch list (which surprises me and means that I’ve watched a lot of classics horror films). So, I shall view and review ‘Them!’.

It’s wonderful to fall into these kinds of films from time to time, those who don’t hurry to bring up what they are all about. I can only imagine what it would be to be alive in 1954 and go to see the latest scare flick ‘Them!’, specially without knowing what was in store. Those first minutes must’ve been suspenseful, and the clues that they give must’ve made the people in the theaters wrap their brain around! Seeing it in that perspective, the film has an spectacular first act, in which the military and the police try to find out what’s behind a bunch of deaths and accidents that have been happening, with the tense line of a little girl that is so shocked she can’t speak behind it all, a sole mute witness that can’t assure them of anything about the menace that is going to fall upon them: giant nuclear mutated ants. It may sound ridiculous, but there’s science involved! Or, at least, that’s what they’re trying to make us believe through the appearance of the two heroes of the film, or at least they are in my eyes: an old scientist and his daughter, also a doctor with a PHD.

It is only with their presence that the dumbfounded police and military can make sense of the matter and finally act upon the acts that these giant ants have committed, and using as a guide the patterns of conduct of these insects, they manage to scare them out from the original dessert from where they spurted out, but it’s only the beginning of the menace as new Queens have flown away and are hatching their eggs in various places. It is at this time that the scientist and his daughter give a lecture using a 16mm film that shows normal ants and tell about the menace they represent. There’s some casual wording that made me realize that there’s a lot more beyond this being a silly science fiction horror nuclear film, as the old man repeats many times the vicious nature of the creatures when compared to “man”, making a special emphasis on their ‘social organization’, and the accent on the word ‘social’ made me think of socialism, and how these ants supposedly appeared a few years after the first nuclear bomb, it’s maybe that the ants represent communism, making a hole inside the communities, to later spread out and kill the innocent good American people. Maybe others have made the connection, but I just found out about it by myself by watching it, and I think that’s pretty clever, even if a bit over complicated and… well, you know, anti communist.

The last third or so of the film isn’t as interesting, even though it seems (on a surface) to be the most action packed, due to the intense presence of the military. But the climax and the exciting elements are reduced to a couple of soldiers fighting through some giant ants in the sewers of Los Angeles, but I appreciate that the two scientist stick until the end, and they are truly the only ones that maintain a role that is clear and recognizable among the barrage of white faces that fill the screen in various dons and hats of various military importance. The movie has some inedible imagery for sure, like the little girl screaming THEM!, or the first appearance of the ants, or how the scenes in the dessert have a sand storm coming and the grain of sands seem to pass through, in front and behind them, giving it all almost a dream-like quality, as if it were the fantasy of a traumatized young child that was maybe too close to some ants and got a bit of a sting of that murky little irritating liquid that later she smells to wake up.



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