31 Favorites #1: Ils


Ils centers around a young French teacher who moves to a remote part of Romania for her job. She and her boyfriend settle into a lovely big house in the country, but their idyllic time abroad is cut short when a group of invaders surround the house and torment them.

Ils is usually categorized as a New French Extremity film, sitting in good company with another favorite of mine, Martyrs. And if there's one thing all of the New Extremity film have in common, it's that they hold nothing back. Ils is no different. It's fast (clocking in at only 1 hr and 17 minutes) and brutal.


Oh, and if all of what I wrote above didn't already make you feel uneasy, the film is (supposedly) based on a true story.

Three Things I Love About It: 

  1. There's a moment in Ils where they turn the "trapped in a dark, surrounded house" horror trope on end, and in my opinion, it's one of the most terrifying parts of the film. After the couple has been running around the house in darkness, the lights suddenly blaze back on. Somehow, this return to normalcy and the mundane makes the entire ordeal even more terrifying. This idea - that the mundane can be a vector for terror - is a thread that carries on straight through to the end.
  2. The opening scene. It's beautifully done, plausible, and terrifying. I had high hopes for this one based on its first five minutes, and I wasn't disappointed.
  3. The sound design of this film is incredible. The invaders regularly use animal and bird sounds while intimidating and chasing their victims, and the overall impact is chilling. And the clicking, whirring sound used over and over ramps up the tension.

Ils is one to see if you're looking for a film with action that doesn't let up, and a storyline that's almost primitive in its simplicity.