Atomic testing in the New Mexico desert causes ants to mutate
into giant carnivorous monsters that pose a threat to civilization.
Directed by Gordon Douglas
Written by Ted Sherdeman
Starring James Whitmore, Edmund Gwenn,
Joan Weldon, James Arness, Onslow Stevens
Oscar Nominations - Best Visual Effects
When I read that this film was about giant man-eating ants, my expectations did not soar. While Them! avoids the campiness I had anticipated, it isn't a great film and suffers from a lack of real story and forgettable characters. The visual effects are top notch for 1954, as the ants look quite terrifying and not straight out of an Ed Wood film. That being said, the film itself isn't anything special.
The film acts as a statement against atomic energy, which makes sense as the film was made during the beginning of the Cold War. The giant ants are a manmade danger that were created by the carelessness the government took with atomic testing in the desert of the American southwest. Amidst all this controversy, you have a cop, two ant scientists, and a soldier trying to stop the ants. The very fact that I don't remember any of their names shows how underdeveloped all of these characters are. This simply shows that horror tropes have always been around and will most likely never change.
I was disappointed by Them! I knew it wasn't going to be incredible, but I'd hoped it would at least be decent. Instead, I got an hour and a half long political statement peppered with some neat effects and half-assed characters that poor James Whitmore ended up in the middle of. The Japanese did a much better job of cashing in on post-WWII atomic fear with Godzilla, which has considerably better staying power than this bizarre film about giant ants.