StreamFocus: THEM!

Shortly after The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms raked in roughly $5million in box office take, a high number at the time, Warner Bros. aimed to duplicate its success with another creature feature -- THEM! You'd probably expect something silly or campy with that title, but that's certainly not the case. It starts out as an effective detective story, complete with a slack-jawed, speechless little girl who's just seen something terrifying happen to her family. A giant hole has been torn out of the side of her trailer, something that couldn't be done by any normal means. Events like this continue to pop up around the New Mexico town, all of them experiencing massive damage and no theft. When a renowned scientist (Edmund Gwenn) and his daughter (Joan Weldon) come into town to investigate a few prints determined to possibly be of an insect, he and the authorities -- the police and FBI -- discover that things are far worse than having to deal with just one singular, large entomological threat.

What director Gordon Douglas dishes out with his adaptation of George Yates' story is one of the best of the "creature feature" genre, a stone-faced, brilliantly-paced chiller that combines superb performances and self-aware, tight production design. He makes strategic usage of the excellently assembled ant models, Oscar-nominated creations that are dated but still constructed with an enduring aesthetic that's charming and, in ways, still unnerving. If for nothing else, the film is worth watching for the suspense generated within two dark, intense sequences where these crawlers might be lurking around any of several corners -- one that finds our crew diving into the depths of a giant anthill, and the other where a huge team of soldiers weave through an atmospheric sewer system. Also, it's with THEM! that we see realized, figurative jabs at nuclear warfare, tapping into a fear generated after the dust had somewhat settled from the bombings in WWII. But that's just icing on the cake when talking about this simple yet fearsome monster thriller, one that still carries a suspenseful punch to this day.

Runtime: 81 min, Grade: B-, Netflix Page


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