This weekend I saw the movie THEM! for the first time. Many reviewers have commented that this is the best of the 50’s era creature features, which could very well be true. The premise is that nuclear tests in the New Mexico desert have caused tiny regular ass ants to genetically mutant into giant super freaky ants. Terror ensues. For as hokey a concept as that may sound, the film does a great job of creating some genuinely creepy moments. The director, Gordon Douglas, was well aware of one of the cardinal rules of any good horror movie: what you cannot see is often much more frightening than what you can. For the first half hour of the film we see only the haunting after-effects of the creatures: a little girl wandering the desert who refuses to speak, a devastated empty store, a dead body. The only clue to the identity of the culprits is the eerie, cicada-like noise they make.

The other thing that makes this an entertaining movie is the charismatic acting of Edmund Gwenn as Dr. Medford. I wasn’t sure who he was while I was watching it, but turns out he won an Oscar for his role as Kris Kringle himself in Miracle on 34th St. and he worked a ton back in the day as a character actor.  As the scientist advising the military personnel in their attempts to contain THEM!, he projects the same sort of charm and wisdom that makes him so lovable in his more famous role. He adds a lot to the movie, making the outlandish creatures seem more believable and keeping the audience engaged.

Lastly, because I am a nerd I also like how I learned a lot of stuff about ants I didn’t know before from the movie. Apparently, ants breathe through their sides. If that isn’t terrifying, I don’t know what is.

–Vicky Vengeance

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