Available on Prime Video, Them follows in the vein of Jordan Peele’s films by using horror as a metaphor for racism in the United States. Result? Goosebumps !
What is it about ?
THEM is an anthological horror series dealing with racism through a new story each season.
THEM: Covenant – in 1953, Henry and Lucky Emory, an African-American couple, decide to move with their small family from North Carolina to an all-white residential area of Los Angeles. The house located in an idyllic street becomes the scene of disturbing supernatural phenomena as evil forces gradually begin to destroy them …
Who is it with?
Anthological horror drama, Them is a series produced by Lena Waithe (Master of None, The Chi) and created by Little Marvin. In the role of the mother, Lucky, we find the British actress Deborah Ayorinde. We could see her in several small roles in Sleepy Hollow, True Detective but also in Luke Cage.
Briton Ashley Thomas plays her husband, Henry. We could see it in seasons 2 and 3 of Top Boys. Most recently, he played the brother of Luca Quinn (Cush Jumbo) in The Good Fight. For music lovers, he is known as Bashy, his musical alias.
In front of them, the Canadian actress Alison Pill (Star Trek: Picard, Devs) plays a hostile neighbor who takes a dim view of the installation of these new neighbors in front of her home.
Well worth a look ?
Them immediately presents itself as a social horror thriller. The series is thus in the same vein as the films of Jordan Peele (Get Out, Us) or the series Lovecraft Country.
The action takes place during the great African-American migration, a movement that drove some six million African-Americans from the South of the United States to the Midwest, Northeast and West of the country. They were fleeing the racism of the South for a better life, hoping to find work in the big industrial cities.
Unfortunately for the Emery family, the American dream is slow to materialize. The idyllic home they bought in Compton is the epicenter of evil forces, ranging from neighbors who can’t stand to see a black family settling in their neighborhood, as well as from another world, dark entities and menacing reminiscent of The Haunting of Hill House.
Them’s storytelling unfolds over ten days of horror and angst within the Emery family. And from the first day, bad omen appear. It begins when the real estate agent who sold them the house seeks to reassure them by saying that the clause that prohibits selling to black buyers or of black ancestry has no legal value …
The Same day, their neighbor Betty (Alison Pill) and her neighborhood friends ostensibly display their hostility to their new neighbors by settling in chairs opposite the Emerys house in the middle of the street with the radio at maximum volume. And of course, the animosity will increase.
A permanent threat
Even in its most anecdotal sequences, Them is intended as a testament to the permanent suffocation to which the Emery family is forced. The slightest sketch becomes an object of anguish.
It is the heavy silence when Henry walks into his new office where all the employees are white. It is the disturbing smile of a neighbor who waves her arm like a robot as their car passes by. Perhaps the slightest gesture hides a threat.
If the narrative is built like a vice that inexorably tightens, the performances of each member of the cast are just as agonizing and offer no oxygen bubbles. Faces contorted on either side express hatred and terror and keep the viewer uncomfortable.
All this contrasts drastically with the very successful realization of the series. The image is dressed in bright colors, strong contrasts. The costumes and hairstyles seem straight out of the fashion magazines of the time.
Everything is a little too flashy to be honest. It is then in the framing that the false note (voluntary) insinuates itself. Offsets and low dives come to tell the viewer that something is wrong.
We will not mention here the nightmarish creatures who refuse to stay long in the dark. The artifice is almost superfluous when we see the antagonisms expressed so freely. Troubling, the viewing is akin to a sensory and gripping experience where horror is used to identify with the experiences of the protagonists, a metaphor for the racism that agitates the United States.