Greetings MMT Fam! Today I want to briefly discuss the new horror series THEM, created by Little Marvin and executive produced by Lena Waithe, which premiered on Amazon Prime Friday, April 9.
Here’s the official synopsis: “Them” is a limited anthology series that explores terror in America. The 1950s set first season centers on a Black family who moves from North Carolina to an all-white Los Angeles neighborhood during the period known as The Great Migration. The family’s idyllic home becomes ground zero where malevolent forces, next-door and otherworldly, threaten to taunt, ravage, and destroy them.
The series stars Deborah Ayorinde, Ashley Thomas, Alison Pill, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Melody Hurd, and Ryan Kwanten.
Now even though this show shares using a pronoun as the title and cast member Shahadi Wright Joseph as a star with the 2019 Jordan Peele hit film “Us,” that’s about all it shares. “Them” ain’t “Us,” but it is a whole pronounced mess! See what I did there?
I enjoyed the first three episodes and was patiently waiting to see where exactly the series was headed but grew increasingly weary with each subsequent entry. I came to realize it was entirely too much trauma work involved with this one, and hardly any victory or triumph to be gained.
There is racism, lynching, hate language, abuse/neglect, religious fanaticism, mental illness, colorism, self-hatred, and that’s just to name a few social ills in addition to the ghostly horrors.
The episode that really foreshadows what you’re in for, and where the show would potentially lead, is episode 5 entitled “Covenant I.” It is pure torture and there is no significant explanation given for the horrid actions that occur.
I guess I also should have paid attention to Waithe as an executive producer, because she seems to select “trauma porn” projects – note the MMT Quick Review of “Queen and Slim,” another one that offered no relief in its climax.
I was simply spent by the time I got to the end of this series, so much so that I wasn’t even in a rush to write or make a podcast about it. And it ends abstractly, without giving a complete resolution – requiring more work on the viewer’s part.
Despite fine performances from its cast, I can’t suggest this one as an entertaining watch, nor must see viewing, and hardly gleaned any social or historical references that were worth noting – except for the Compton location being used, which historically was an all-white neighborhood contrary to the one we have come to culturally associate it being.
I rate it 2 out of 5 beats on the MMTrometer.
With “Them” now available for streaming on Amazon Prime, I do encourage you to watch and decide for yourself, but would also like to recommend a few additional titles, dependent on what you’re in the mood, that I believe are stronger options.
For those looking for horror on a socially conscious note, check out Jordan Peel’s 2017 directorial debut “Get Out,” which addresses racism head on and ends more victoriously, and his previously mentioned 2019 follow up “Us” (4 out of 5 beats on the MMTrometer), which deals less with race and more with people’s fascination with blaming “the other.” Both films are now available for streaming, including Amazon Prime.
I’d also like to recommend “His House” (3.5 out of 5 beats), a supernatural story similar to “Them” in that it has a socially-based theme and follows a family who moves to another location only to end up haunted by ghosts. The logline reads: After making a harrowing escape from war-torn South Sudan, a young refugee couple struggle to adjust to their new life in a small English town that has an unspeakable evil lurking beneath the surface.
If you’re looking for something with a focus on social consciousness, civil rights and/or domestic terrorism, I have two recommendations. The first is the Regina King directed “One Night in Miami,” click here for the MMT Review (5 out of 5 beats), then there’s “American Skin (3.5 out of 5 beats),” the Nate Parker produced/written/starring film that follows a veteran seeking revenge for the killing of his son at the hands of police. Both movies premiered on Prime January 15, with the latter releasing on BET+ on April 15.
And lastly, if you’re looking for a historical film with themes of social activism, domestic terrorism, and civil rights, check out the MMT Review of “Judas and the Black Messiah (4 out of 5 beats) now streaming on HBO Max.
That’s it for now family. Until next thought, Thomasena