While haunted castles and abandoned villages can be spooky enough in their own right, nothing quite gets the blood pumping like a good home invasion thriller. Combining these tropes with heavy-hitting social commentary and some memorable characters, writer-director Joe Martin has managed to craft a unique entry in this terrifying (albeit highly entertaining) sub-genre with his first feature film Us and Them.
Us and Them stars Jack Roth as Danny, a working-class boy who awkwardly shows up with Phillipa (Sophie Colquhoun) at the family estate, where her upper-class parents are waiting to meet her new boyfriend. However, things aren’t as they seem, and the situation soon takes a turn for the worse when masked invaders take the family hostage and force them to participate in a sick game as punishment for their bourgeois ways.
To say more would spoil the copious amounts of twists and turns that this sneaky little movie has in store, so suffice to say that what follows is a terrifying parable concerning greed, class warfare, and murder. Plus, it’s all complemented by some flashy editing and a witty soundtrack, making for a fun, if somewhat peculiar, watch.
Nevertheless, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows with Us and Them, as the film often feels confused both in tone and its intended message. These mixed signals get in the way of an otherwise entertaining experience, though it is a shame to see some elements of this clever premise go to waste. While the stylish directing and suspenseful time jumps are definitely appreciated, perhaps the script should have spent a little more time developing the story’s political foundation first.
Despite this, the non-linear approach to storytelling helps to keep things fresh, and, with so much going on plot-wise, it’s easy to forgive most of the script’s blemishes. The competent cast also helps sell the illusion, though Roth is obviously the star of the show here with his memorable lines and overall complexity as a character. His intense performance alone is what keeps the political banter from getting too heavy-handed, though the film does occasionally slip up on that regard.
Sadly, the uneven tone and frequent instances of long-winded dialogue keep Us and Them from becoming a fully-fledged home invasion nightmare, with some aspects of the supposedly brutal “game” that the family is forced to play even feeling downright tame at times. The movie still works as a political discussion and even a pseudo-character-study, but leaves something to be desired in the “thrills” department.
Overall, Us and Them is still an effective ride and a brutal depiction of what a deranged mind is capable of in the name of “justice”. It’s certainly not a perfect experience, but a compelling lead and some creative direction make the film fun and relevant enough to recommend to anyone who’s up for a side of social discourse with their home invasion thrills.
Us and Them is now available on VOD!