Them is a claustrophobic gothic horror that follows a Black family, the Emory’s, who move from North Carolina to an all-white neighbourhood set in Compton in 1953. Each family member is seemingly haunted by macabre manifestations of their individual trauma as they try to come to terms with an unspeakable tragic past event.
Created by Little Marvin the series stars Deborah Ayorinde, Ashley Thomas, who both put in a mesmerising turn as a couple who are trying to adjust to their new surroundings, an uphill struggle given on every front, new job, new neighbourhood, new schooling for their daughters, they are being challenged to the peak of their existence.
The narrative structure and the way in which we time travel through various arcs in their past is uncomfortably immersive. The storytelling is intriguing and addictive, an incredible feat to pull off given the horrors both literal and figurative that are thrown at the viewer.
Once you get past the jarring aspect of the lazy comparisons you could draw in that it is very reminiscent of Jordan Peele’s ‘US’ and to a certain extent ‘Get Out’ you notice it has its own nuance, rhythm and cadence. Them is not afraid to take you to dizzying heights of horror. In one scene we get to witness a hot poker being used to blind, a burning and hanging all in the space of five minutes. Not content with this being the centre piece ‘Them’ is notable for treating its audience like adults. Nothing is off limits or left to the imagination.
There are very mature themes at play here and they unfold at a frenetic pace over ten episodes. Given how much needs to be unpacked and characters need to be developed ‘Them’ never feels baggy. The narrative structure is fluid enough to ensure that you get a change of scenery in each episode you also get a clear sense of the plot, all without laborious scenes featuring dumbed down exposition.
A lot will be said about ‘Them’ feeding into racial trauma as a genre. I would tend to disagree that is what is at play here. I found it refreshing that a director chose horror as the canvas by which to bring to life these incredible characters. This in itself is an education in divisive housing practices, overt and covert segregation, two tier healthcare and institutionally racist policing. In short allegorically ‘Them’ is a lot about exposing the true horrors that have affected Black people historically and themes that are still being played out today.
‘Them’ is available now via Amazon Prime and can be streamed now.