Over the past few years we have become more and more accustomed to film productions released on the small and large screen produced and directed by people of color, some of whom have thought about how to use the horror genre to convey their personal message to viewers. Just think about what Jordan Peele, director of Scappa - Get Out (2017) and Us - Noi (2017) managed to do, telling terrifying and suggestive stories that lay the foundations forhate, on the frustration racial discrimination. With Them, the director and executive producer Little Marvin rides the success of "social horror", transporting us into the tense atmosphere of North Carolina in the 50s, and the way an African American family will have a lot of difficulty in being able to settle in one of the classic residential neighborhoods that represent the American Paradise. Here is our review of Them, the series consisting of 10 episodes, lasting about 50 minutes, available on the streaming platform Amazon Prime Video from April 9 2021
Them: Welcome to Compton, California
Them opens by offering us an interesting look at the historical context of the period in which it is set. Between 1916 and 1970, some six million African Americans moved from the rural south of the United States to the Northeast, Midwest, and West, in a process known as Great Migration, which has allowed countless black families to move to California to find work and to try to leave the Southern Hemisphere behind. Jim Crow laws, issued between 1877 and 1964 to create and to maintain the racial segregation for black Americans and for members of other minorities other than whites.
Among the numerous families who arrived in California in search of a better life we can also find Henry (Ashley Thomas) e Livia "Lucky" Emory (Deborah Ayorinde), who, along with their daughters Ruby (Shahadi Wright Joseph) e Gracie (Melody Hurd), they are ready to leave their difficult past behind. The family is thirsty for everything this new life could offer them, but their optimism and hope will soon be shaken by the reluctance of the neighbors who, led by Betty Wendell (Alison Pill), they will immediately kick off one violent campaign of hate against the Emories in an attempt to drive them away.
While Rubie and Gracie will find it difficult to integrate at school and with their respective classmates due toincessant racism of which they are victims, Henry will find himself forced to live with the discrimination in the workplace, who still can't accept the fact that a black person can be a brilliant engineer. Locked up in the walls of her home due to fear of what awaits her outside, Livia will be forced to suffer in silence the abuses and continuous violence of her neighbors, which will put a strain on her sanity due to a tragic event that a few years earlier upset the lives of the members of the family.
Without going into too much plot detail within this review, Them is made up of ten episodes (corresponding to the first ten days in their new home) that show us a constant climax of anxiety, pressure e discomfort. All this is possible thanks to the almost perfect balance of family events, between public and private, internal tensions and the outside world, the myth of security in America and the strange events that will further shake the already very precarious balance. by Emory. In fact, in addition to constant racial discrimination, the latter will be the victim of many unexplained events, which will make the boundary between what is real and what is not less and less evident.
A social critique of blood, blackface and apple pies
Them therefore presents itself as an extremely interesting and successful product, capable of grasping the worst of American society and showing us the nightmare of hatred and racial discrimination, wisely using all the typical components of horror to transmit in a stronger and impact the important message that the author wants to convey. The elements are so many, and they constantly oscillate between the nightmare of what a human being can accomplish to defend their ideals and protect their family al mysterious terror that can hide in the darkest corners of its basement.
Despite some slower and decidedly heavy moments to digest, which in order not to ruin your vision we will avoid analyzing in detail in the review, Them manages to reach its main objective in a precise and timely manner, accompanying us in an extremely tense atmosphere, where everything can lead to terror and physical and psychological violence at any moment. To further enrich the evocative atmosphere of Compton there is a frenetic and experimental direction, able to capture the artificial magic which characterizes the residential districts of the 50s. The music also works perfectly, and manages to perfectly accompany the narrative full of themes and events. (The instrumental and timing version of Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg's The Next Episode, for example, is the icing on the cake.)
Them follows in the footsteps of the "social horror”Which, over the last few years, have been used by more and more directors to convey a message to their audience through the dynamics and elements typical of horror films. Even though it's set in the 50s, the message is still there extremely current, and recalls the events that have shaken America over the years, especially during 2020. In this regard, the reference to Jordan Peele is evident in some narrative sequences, but Little Marvin always manages to keep his own clear and personal narrative style.
As we have already anticipated in this review, Them is therefore an extremely convincing product that, despite some small narrative and stylistic defects, manages to offer us an extremely immersive and captivating experience, in which the main characters manage to coexist and effectively tell their stories. In a world that is still shaken by hatred and racial discrimination today, the series tries to convey a clear and transparent message, using the typical gimmicks of contemporary horror to emphasize the message, surprising the viewer on more than one occasion. Fear, anxiety and discomfort do not hide only in the darkest corners of one's home, but also and above all in the minds and ideals of other people, of generics "their”Which lend themselves as the title of the series.