The series is created and executive produced by Little Marvin along with executive producers Lena Waithe, Miri Yoon and Roy Lee of Vertigo Entertainment, David Matthews, and Don Kurt. Them is a co-production from Sony Pictures Television and Amazon Studios.
The 1950s set first season centres on a Black family who moves from North Carolina to an all-white Los Angeles neighbourhood 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 legacy of the horror anthology runs all the way back to series like Tales from the Crypt. Contemporary audiences will be adeptly aware of the success of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story and Shudder’s Creepshow. Now Amazon Prime is throwing its hat in the ring with Little Marvin and Lena Waithe’s Them.
The premise is familiar: a horror-tinged series which tell a different story each season. This first season, dubbed, Covenant, follows in the footsteps of series like Watchmen and Lovecraft Country is paralleling its main themes against social commentary. Here, as with both the aforementioned series, Them tells the story of persecution against an unassuming black family.
The story itself cleverly balances its social commentary with horror elements. Taking inspiration from The Shining, the darker aspects of Them‘s narrative reflect the disturbing nature of the discourse between the Emory family and their white neighbours. Those dark elements, such as the nightmarish vision of Miss Vera, underpin the horror of real-life racism by punctuating the series with truly disturbing visuals.
At time Them is unrelenting. It pivots seamlessly from the efforts of nosey neighbour Betty Wendell (Alison Pill) to drive the Emory family away to the primal forces which threaten their very sanity. Even when the series feels overwhelming and overwrought, the stellar casting is able to keep things on track. Deborah Ayorinde is a remarkable force of nature as Lucky Emory. The series’ writers throw everything at her and she is able to execute all of it with the grit and determination of any A-list, big name actor. In just these ten episode it evokes memories of Sarah Paulson tackling multiple roles across American Horror Story.
Alison Pill, fresh from a fun stint on Star Trek: Picard, is nothing short of revelatory. Her performance is absolutely electric. Fully committed to the material, she sizzles in every scene and makes Betty truly deplorable. Though her storyline comes to a rather abrupt end she is a delight to watch and deserves equal praise to Ayorinde.
The rest of the Emory family: Ashley Thomas, Shahadi Wright Joseph and Melody Hurd are fantastically cast. Thomas brings a tremendous level of emotion to the series. Whilst both Joseph and Hurd portray difficult storylines with a maturity which is well beyond their years.
Though Them could use a little more breathing space in its narrative, the series undoubtedly succeeds in challenging perceptions. Scary in the most unsettling of ways, it left me feeling somewhat ashamed by the actions of past generations and disturbed by a remorseless level of terror.
With bold storytelling and an unabashedly strong vision, Them is a tantalising anthology series up there with American Horror Story.
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