Them is receiving many comparisons to Jordan Peele’s US – but the only thing that the two have in common is a similar poster and a black family dealing with a brutal home invasion. Where Jordan Peele managed to both horrify and crack the audience up – Them only manages to make us feel uncomfortable as we witness all the horrific acts of violence that white characters bestow upon the black characters throughout the duration of the series.
Them is closer to the film Antebellum than US – in depicting black trauma and suffering with no slices of comic relief. Them follows the Emorys relocating from North Carolina after a traumatic event – to Compton, California in the 1950’s. Each character not only has to deal with real horror (overt racism and past PTSD) but also with evil supernatural forces.
The series is a non-stop violent marathon, and even for seasoned horror viewers like myself who has enjoyed watching Hostel a billion times – doesn’t prepare you for the sick dread feeling you’ll experience if you choose to watch Them. Personally, I would’ve liked some moments of levity in between all the violence. I would’ve liked to have gotten to know each of the Emorys in a way that wasn’t entirely focused on their trauma and suffering. Even when Lucky was at Hazel’s home and seemed to be having fun, suddenly she was reminded of the traumatic event that caused them to move – or I would’ve liked to see Ruby triumph when she upstaged her white classmates with her knowledge, rather than be brutally mocked and humiliated.
I wanted the Emorys to have little triumphs in the midst of darkness. Instead – what we’re left with after viewing ten episodes is feeling utterly exhausted and haunted and yes, a little traumatized. Horror should scare us – but it should also entertain. Where Them falls short is that we’re well aware of the real life horrors of racism, we haven’t been able to look away ever since there were some high profile incidents in the past year.
Some Black reviewers question who the series was written for since they don’t feel like it was written with them in mind. If Little Marvin wanted to depict the evils of the white man, then he did a superb job. But after all the horror, a bit of levity and triumph would’ve been the balm we needed.