Review: Ils (Them)

Posted by Peter Hall - June 10th 2007 @ 8:20 pm

Written and Directed by David Moreau and Xavier Palud, 2006

Ils Poster

Clocking in at a very trim 77 minutes, featuring only two characters (not counting the opening pair, who exist only for an introductory jolt), and hailing from the land of Haute Tension, Ils is a near plot-less exercise in sustaining the slasheresque chase for as long as possible.

Ils is the horror movie set equivalent of Springfield.  That wonderful animated city has a gorge, a coast line, more than one mountain, a hydro-electric damn, a national forest, a desert and even a swamp.  Ils, on the similar hand, starts off inside a poorly lit car, moves to a derelict house, traps itself in a tiny bathroom, then to an attic packed full of scary furniture, into a maze of translucent construction tarps, out to the woods, and finally some kind of massive, subterranean sewer labyrinth.

That has to set some kind of record.

Unless Moreau and Palud put every single element of the vividly detailed sound mix to the page before filming, the script for Ils must have been only 45 pages.  Tops.  The plot, which a title card states is based on actual events, consists entirely of a guy and a gal, Clementine and Lucas, being chased from inside their creepy house out into their creepy woods.  Period.  That’s all there is to it.

There is mild character development in the 20 or 30 minute preamble to the arrival of the antagonizing unknowns, but the actual specifics really don’t matter.  Investment in what is happening on screen has little to do with who the people being attacked are (and who is attacking them) and everything to do with the raw strength of the actors.  Between this, Haute Tension and Calvaire, France appears to be the place to go to for scream queens and kings.  Once the hunt is on everything leading up to it becomes no more than a vague memory.  Pointing this out isn’t so much a fault of the script or filmmakers as it never hurts the film, this is purely an observation as to how retrospectively inconsequential 1/3rd of the film is.

The look of Ils is appropriately bleak, but little different from any number of other lower scaled productions.  The sound, however, is tremendously detailed.  Every single creak can be heard from the exact location it should be.  The noises the unknown ‘Them’ make while in pursuit is a distinctive, instantly eerie sound that hits just the right spot.

The movie may be dead simple and to the point, but it still pulls off a very interesting spin on home invasion.  The ending is one of my favorite genre finishers in recent years.  Not because there is some jaw dropping twist, but because it echoes the tone of the preceding 75 minutes perfectly and applies meaning where there was none.  Since it is from France and is comprised almost entirely of a female being chased, the comparisons to Haute Tension are inevitable, but rest assured if you hated the utterly pointless 180 of that film’s ending, you’ll find no such disappointment here.

Perhaps If Haute Tension hadn’t done pretty much the same thing tighter (save for that unnecessary reversal) three years prior, Ils would be breaking into theaters this very summer.  Unfortunately, it is not.  However, don’t let that hold you back from tracking a copy down.  It’s a good chase with a final shot that I’d honestly say is one for the books.

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  1. R.J. Sayer
    June 11th, 2007 | 2:20 pm | #1

    HAUTE TENSION’s ending pretty much ruined the entire film for me. which is depressing because, up until that point, i found the entire work to be one of the most engaging and refreshing genre efforts in a decade or so.

    glad to see ILS doesn’t make the same mistake.

  2. June 11th, 2007 | 3:34 pm | #2

    I still dig the hell out of Haute Tension. The ending doesn’t kill it for me, but it is wholly pointless and should never have made it past being a fleeting thought in the writing stage. Ils has a very, very different ending with nothing in common to HT. I hope I don’t over-sell it before you see it, but that final shot is an oh-so-gentle chill that I couldn’t resist. A very classy relief from the ‘final jump’ of studio horror.

    I can’t wait to see Aja’s Piranha. My God, that day cannot come soon enough!

  3. June 12th, 2007 | 11:14 pm | #3

    Peter, where can i get some damn bait?

  4. June 13th, 2007 | 9:07 am | #4

    Wow. The steps you took to connect that quote to a typo in this review are ridiculous. Only you would think to connect Randy Quaid in Vegas Vacation to me spelling ‘dam’ ‘damn’.

  5. R.J. Sayer
    June 13th, 2007 | 3:34 pm | #5

    I’m all about Aja.

    but there’s a part of me that wishes Chuck Russell was still doing Piranha.

  6. June 14th, 2007 | 9:05 pm | #6

    Chuck Russell needs to do anything.

  7. R.J. Sayer
    June 15th, 2007 | 5:29 pm | #7

    Agreed. Totally Fucking Agreed.

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