Thursday, October 26, 2023

Them! (1954)


Time for some Monster Madness. Been wanting to cover this movie for like five Halloweens now and never get around to it. It's a legendary horror classic about rampaging giant ants. If you haven't seen it, you've probably heard of it.

Also, fun fact: This movie inspired Aliens quite a bit. That's right, it's Proto-Aliens. That alone makes this a bit of a historical artifact.


A sole little girl is wandering in the desert, clutching a broken doll. A patrol plane spots her and calls it in.

The cops arrive and try to get her to tell them what happened and why she's out here, but she's mute and traumatized.

They take her with them and try to figure this weird situation out. The only place around here with people living in it that she could have really walked from is a trailer down the road, so they head over there to see if they can find some answers.

They arrive, only to find that the trailer has been completely trashed. Matter of fact there's a giant hole in the side of it. Someone - or someTHING - completely tore this place apart.

There's no sign of the inhabitants, just bloody clothes strewn about. The weirdest thing is that all of their sugar seems to have been rampaged through. There are sugar cubes everywhere.

Medical staff arrive to take the girl away while they continue investigating. Just then, a weird chirping sound echoes over the desert.

The little girl sits straight up like The Undertaker at the sound of the chirping. After a few seconds it fades away though.

There's something out there in that desert. And it ain't no man.

The cops head to the next-closest location: A corner store run by an old man they've known for decades. Once they get there, they find that this place has also been trashed. The old man's rifle was snapped in half by his assailant, and weirdest of all: They went right for the sugar. That's right, there's sugar strewn everywhere from all the sugar containers being ripped open.

The main cop says he's gonna go back and see if the kid is talking yet, since she's their only real lead. His partner is gonna stay here and wait for the forensic team to arrive.

Just as he settles in, he hears that weird chirping again, and shuts off all the lights. DON'T GO OUT THERE!

He goes outside, and some malevolent force drags him across physical space. All we can hear is the screaming.

Back at the station, Main Cop talks to Chief Dan Aykroyd. The chief says that the FBI has been brought in on this particular situation since it's so baffling, and that the forensics team has gotten some unexplainable "giant footprints" from around the wrecked trailer.

FBI Guy shows up and examines the footprints. He can't make heads or tails of these things. They kinda look like hoof-prints.

Chief Aykroyd is stressed at the situation and goes off to take a long swig of vodka.

FUN FACT: FBI Guy is played by James Arness, who also played The Thing in The Thing From Another World. That's also worth a look if one wants more retro Monster Madness.

Not-Blair arrives, the foremost authority on invasive species. The FBI called him down to help FBI Guy and Main Cop figure out what's going on around here.

Oh, and also...his daughter Patricia, a brilliant zoologist as well, is here to help. Everyone spins around to see her. A LADY DOCTOR?

My God. An actual lady!

"Well this movie just got a lot better" says FBI Guy.

"Oh yeahhhh. Nice."

She introduces herself to the squad, and they're off to start investigating. I wonder who her love interest is gonna be. Probably FBI Guy because he's tall.

Note: Main Cop and FBI Guy wanted to show her to her quarters where she'll be staying so she can get situated, while her and her dad both immediately wanted to swing into action and not waste any time. We can already see how much more efficient these zoologists are than the local authorities.

Patricia and Not-Blair examine the unknown footprint. They have an idea of what it is, can't be. They ask FBI Guy where the Trinity nuclear blast happened nine years ago.

The answer? Very close to here, in White Sands. The zoologists wonder aloud if nine years is long enough for a mutation of this magnitude to occur. FBI Guy and Main Cop are a bit perplexed by all of this and the zoologists aren't exactly making with the info here.

Not-Blair interviews Not-Newt and tries to get some sort of info from her.

He holds some sort of acid in front of her nose and she FREAKS OUT. Nice going, doc!

Finally we get that her parents are DEAD and were killed by the ants.

Patricia looking at Blair like "nice going"

They head out into the desert to look for more clues around where the girl's home was attacked. The creatures must have emerged somewhere around here, and if they can find the entrance to the nest, they might be able to mount a counterattack.

But wait! The chirping begins again.


FBI Guy rushes to her aid and opens fire on the giant ant, to no effect.

Main Cop also opens fire. These little revolvers aren't doing anything!

He leaves and comes back with a machine gun! "TAKE THAT YA INSECT MENACE!"

Under a hail of gunfire, the ant is finally slain. Now I feel kind of sad! It's not the ant's fault it got mutated by atomic radiation.

Blair says that if they don't find the nest, this could be the end of the world.

Is he always this much of a bummer? In any case, our heroes better figure something out quick.

FBI Guy and Scientist Lady get some quality time in a helicopter as they fly around looking for the source of the ants. Eventually they spot it, a giant hole in the desert.

They meet with the military, who are all ready to bomb the hell out of the ant nest. However, Blair advises that it's a bad idea. Most of them are probably way underground where the bombs won't work. Instead, he suggests gassing them with cyanide, which should permeate all the tunnels if they use enough of it.

He explains that they likely have a Queen somewhere and the most important thing is stopping her.

Our heroes go back with bazookas and LIGHT UP the entrance to the nest to keep the ants inside while they close in and drop cyanide.

A bunch of huge explosions later, and...

...they close in with hazmat suits on to gas the place. One bold ant emerges to stare them down, despite all of the explosions and ruckus.


Man, these guys are sadists.

After letting the gas do its work, they strap on flamethrowers to go into the nest and find the lair of the queen.

FBI Guy doesn't want Patricia to go because it's so dangerous, but she insists, as only she'd be able to positively ID any queens and so forth. Finally he caves and lets her go with them.

They strap on gas masks and head into the hive, flamethrowers at the ready.

Straggler ants attack!

"F***** YOOOOOOOU" cackle our heroes maniacally as they blast fire everywhere.

So far the ant resistance against these psychopaths isn't going well.

They find the queen room, full of eggs. Patricia recognizes that the eggs are still intact and protected from the gas, which means at any time they could hatch and unleash more ants. She tells them to burn everything.


Main Cop: "FIRE! FIRE!"

Outside, Patricia reveals that there were two queen eggs that had already hatched, which means it's very likely two queens already left the nest to go start new nests.

Blair then tells everyone that if they don't stop these two, they'll create more queens and it'll be impossible to contain the spread. He says if the ants get out into the world, the entire human race will be dead in one year.

Next they go to Washington DC to meet with military brass and give them the rundown of how serious the situation is. Blair shows them a bunch of videos about the wonder that is ant.

He also tells us that ants are the only species besides humans that wage war. Two ants can be locked in combat for days at a time, grappling it out without tiring. They can lift 20 times their own weight. They're basically unstoppable if they get big enough, hostile enough, and go on the march.

We get a shot of a VERY YOUNG LEONARD NIMOY~! getting a telegram at a military facility. Everyone's getting the word to get ready in case this turns into all-out war.

In New Mexico, this military outpost gets overrun by ants and everyone dies. Well, we found them!

A nearby train was also ransacked. What was the train carrying? Sugar. They're really into sugar!

There's only one place they could be at this point: The sewers that come off of Los Angeles' legendary canals.

The military arrives in LA! How many? All of them, I think.

This military guy wants to go in guns-blazing and torch the place, and our heroes are like "just hold on a minute mister!" because there are kids trapped in there with the ants. Not sure why the ants are dragging kids down to their lair. Maybe for food? One cannot persist on sugar alone!

Patricia and FBI Guy need to stop shooting each other meaningful glances, because Blair is starting to notice. Look how mad he is!

The Colonial Marines head down into the tunnels, overconfident.

This is pre-Nam, though. So their overconfidence is quite normal at this point and won't backfire like it did in Aliens.

Blair and the military brass are back outside, communicating over radio with the troops as they try to find the ant lair.

Main Cop locates the kidnapped kids. He just has to shuffle down this claustrophobic pipe to get to them.

There they are! For some reason a bunch of ants are just sorta menacing them with chirps instead of just eating them.

MC leaps down and unleashes hell! "F**** YOOOOOOU!"


He rescues the kids! Get outta there!

He makes sure the kids get back into the pipe safely, but at the cost of not having time to get out himself.


The Troops arrive just in time to open fire!

...this movie is way too good for the subject matter and 1954. Why is this movie so good?

FBI Guy talks to his now-friend, but it's too late for Main Cop. That ant basically crushed him.

This is a time when WW2 was still fresh on people's minds, and while rah-rah pro-military mood was in full swing, so was a sense of the loss that goes with battles like this.

FBI Guy leaps into the fray! "F**** YOOOOOOOOU!"

They've found the two ant queens, which means if they can take this hive out, the threat is over.

The troops unleash hell!

And that's it, they won. FBI Guy muses that in the nine years since they detonated the first bomb, who knows what else might have mutated like this elsewhere.

Blair notes that when humans entered the atomic age, they began playing with forces they shouldn't have, and no one can say what the future ramifications or end result will be.

Phew, really good movie. Surprised it ended with what was basically an anti-nuke message. This movie gets my seal of approval. Also cool how much it inspired Aliens and maybe even to some extent Carpenter's The Thing. So for me it was cool to catch all the early inspirations for later sci-fi movies. Too bad we didn't get to see more of Super-Young Leonard Nimoy though.

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