Monday, January 24, 2011

Them!!!! Them!!!!

I had a good start to the new semester today and its a good thing too, considering that I was up a good chunk of the night all stressed out about it.  I get weird like that sometimes, where I cannot sleep because I'm worrying about nonsense.  For example: last night I was tense due to starting a new theater class (after having not done one for a year) and due to nervousness about the upcoming shows and all the things I haven't yet done with the Thespian Club.  It was like a dam broke in my psyche and all the junk rolling around flooded out.  On the upside, I didn't have a single worry about Patrick...the guy I am seeing.  I was a little surprised, because usually I worry like crazy.  Things are very comfortable with him though, and I find myself feeling like he'll be around for a long time.  I don't know if that will be the case, but its damn comforting right now.  We're gonna spend another weekend together this coming weekend, so hopefully I'm still feeling that way then.  Anyway, tonight I'm feeling nostalgic for something campy...something from the 1950s...something with giant bugs.  It seems hard to believe that there was a time in the 1950s when giant bug pictures were not prolific in the cinemas, but it was the case before this little gem was released.  Thankfully, despite its imitators and clones, this one is still one of the best and most highly regarded.  But lets not spend all day talking about its accolades, lets just enjoy the film itself.  So, without futher ado, I present the creature feature spectacular...Them!

It is just a routine patrol day for two New Mexico policemen as they drive through the hot, arid desert...routine, that is, until they come across a little girl wandering in a shock.  They take her in and, while searching for anyone who can identify her, they come across a mobile home and a general store that have both been completely destroyed.  They also find one dead body...a man who has been brutally ripped and punctured.  After an FBI agent has been brought in to help and a large animal track is found near the scene, the story attracts a father and daughter scientist team to the town.  They begin an investigation that finally yields a conclusion to the mystery, the countryside is under siege by giant ants!  Apparently, due to nuclear testing in the desert, the indigenous ants have mutated and grown to colossal size.  Because of a lack of a proper food source for them, they have grown carnivorous and have begun to attack the population nearby.  The scientists and the military manage to locate and destroy the nest of these ants...but they find no queen ants within.  These queens have escaped the nest and are now at large forming new colonies somewhere distant.  Will the scientists and the soldiers find the new nests before more people are killed by the creatures?

Them! is still amazingly exciting and suspenseful even today, despite its somewhat primitive creature effects and campy story elements.  However, you'd be surprised at just how realistically it presents its events.  This doesn't follow the usual formula for giant bug movies, with the insect quietly and swiftly killing and taking over a small town with no one ever around to see it till its too late.  Rather, Them! brings the ants front and center at about the half hour mark and then allows its heroes to destroy their hive soon after.  However, then it shifts gears into a chase film where they must find the missing queen ants and kill all the new ants that hatch.  Its more like a big-budget creature feature from today.  Of course, they can't show all the spectacular feats of the ants and do a lot of talking about them...but what they do manage was a cinematic marvel back then.  It was so impressive that the film was nominated for Best Visual Effects, and rightly so.  The chilling sound of the ants and the mechanical creatures themselves are quite frightening.  Of course, and some may cry foul on me for this, but I would love to see a modern remake of this film that uses the majority of the original plot and adds sequences that show off more of the ants and their destruction.  For now, however, this film is perfect for a late night treat.  Its good, old-fashioned creature horror at its best.

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