Starring: James Whitmore, Edmund Gwenn, Joan Weldon
Director: Gordon Douglas
Running Time: 94 mins
Them! is an American film about the crisis that unfolds in Southern California after nuclear tests cause ants to grow into gigantic man-eating monsters, threatening every human life.
Sci-fi movies of the 1950s remain iconic to this day, but not necessarily for the same reasons as when they were made. Them! is another enjoyable window into the fad of monster movies during the era, but fails to foster the tension and thematic intrigue that some of the best examples of the genre once managed.
As a result, although there is a certain fun factor to watching giant ants threaten the survival of the human race, Them! is a fairly dull watch. That means that it’s less Invasion Of The Body Snatchers or The Day The Earth Stood Still, and more Attack Of The 50 Foot Woman.
Of course, there is a little more to this movie than the most ridiculous of ’50s monster flicks, but it fails to really capitalise on its political context to make a genuinely gripping watch.
With a tale that in part warns of the power of nuclear weapons, and in part works as a cautionary tale of the coming conflict between the USA and the USSR, there should have been more urgency and more tension at play in this movie, but that just isn’t the case.
It’s a real shame, because as some of the best genre movies from the era proved, there is so much potential in blending sci-fi and contemporary politics, as it strikes up some of the most eye-catching and genuinely unnerving storytelling possible.
However, Them! doesn’t quite push the boat out far enough, ending up as more of a monster movie than a political allegory. There are times when it does excite – particularly in the way it portrays the human response to the giant ants (a little reminiscent of how Night Of The Living Dead would play out) – but for the most part, this is a disappointing film.
Overall, despite the potential of its premise and moments of fun and excitement, Them! is far from the best of the monster movies of the 1950s. It’s a little dated, and that definitely makes up part of the reason for not having quite the impact of its day, but it still doesn’t do enough to use its political context to tell a more gripping, unnerving story, so that’s why I’m giving it a 6.6.