Directed by Gordon Douglas [Other horror films: Gildersleeve’s Ghost (1944), Zombies on Broadway (1945), The Fiend Who Walked West (1958)]
I’ll be honest and say that I don’t have that much to say about this film. It’s a classic for a reason, and though I’d not seen Them! in many years since this most recent rewatch, it’s clear to me that this will likely always been considered a classic, despite some personal dislikes in the latter half of the film.
There was little to criticize insofar as the performances went. Both James Arness and James Whitmore were great co-leads, and Joan Weldon made for a solidly strong woman, especially during the excursion into the anthill. Personally, though, it’s Edmund Gwenn who I suspect will stick with me the longest, as I rather loved his absent-minded portrayal (and gave us some of the few comedic scenes this film had).
As far as the horror goes, there were some good, suspenseful sequences near the beginning that definitely had a creepy vibe to them, though after the point in which we saw the first ant (a great scene in itself, actually), I think they somewhat quickly lost the terrifying vibe. It had a more epic feel, to be sure, but the ants themselves lost something in that transition.
Which is a small shame, because while the shift makes a lot of sense story-wise, I didn’t care that much for it. Oh, I enjoyed the investigation portions quite a bit (and they sometimes reminded me of what you might see on Dragnet), but going for a wider scope, a more disaster movie type plot, sort of makes the film lose a little of what it had before.
None of this is to say I don’t like the movie, it’s just that I didn’t love the second half of the film. It was still great, especially the sequences that took place in the sewer system, but I didn’t love it. Even so, Them! remains one of the better giant insect movies, perhaps one of the best, of the 1950’s. It has great performances, a fun story and setting (once they left New Mexico for California, though, I thought it lost a little of the magic), and fantastic effects for the time period. There’s a lot to enjoy about this film, so give it a shot if you’ve not already.