‘Them: The Scare’ series review: Deborah Ayorinde’s gripping Black horror sequel needed more thrills

Deborah Ayorinde and Joshua J. Williams in a scene from ‘Them: The Scare’
| Photo Credit: Quantrell Colbert

When reflecting on the Amazon Prime original horror series from 2021, Them, one remembers the relentless horror that kept viewers on edge, the impression of a definitively crafted narrative, and the eeriness of human characters often seeming more terrifying than any ghostly presence. The series depicted the trials of a young Black family in 1953 as they moved into a white neighborhood in Los Angeles and found themselves prey not just to the racist community but also to an evil entity lurking in their new home.

Years have passed, and the creative forces behind the show, including writer-creator Little Marvin and protagonist Deborah Ayorinde, have returned with Them: The Scare. The sequel continues to explore the concept of social horror made popular by Jordan Peele, albeit with a mixed level of success. The latest season spans eight episodes, prioritizing the social and racial terrors faced by the primary Black characters over more traditional gory or supernatural elements, especially in 1970s and 1980s America.

It’s not until the series’s midpoint that something supernatural begins to surface, primarily through the gruesome murder investigations led by LAPD detective Dawn Reeve (played skillfully by Ayorinde). The bizarre state of the bodies, the victims all displaying pre-death paranoia regarding reflections and warnings of a mysterious “red-haired man,” should have signaled immediate concern. Yet, the prejudiced outlook of Reeve’s colleague, Detective Ronald McKinney (Jeremy Bobb), who harbors deep-seated racist beliefs, ensures her findings gain minimal traction. As Reeve delves deeper into her work, the malevolence she confronts begins to affect her own family members, including her mother, Athena (Pam Grier), and son Kelvin (Joshua J. Williams).

Them: The Scare (English)

Creator: Little Marvin

Cast: Deborah Ayorinde, Luke James, Jeremy Bobb, Joshua J. Williams, Pam Grier

Episodes: 8

Runtime: 30-50 minutes

Storyline: A Black policewoman confronts racism within her department while investigating eerie murders that may be the work of a roaming serial killer.

The narrative also follows Edmund Gaines (Luke James, in a noteworthy performance), an actor falling into despair and darkness. Them: The Scare takes a deep dive into Edmund’s transformation into a sociopath, simultaneously exploring the impact of stereotypical casting options on actors of color. Edmund’s switch flips when he auditions for one of the few roles available to African Americans that aren’t the stereotypical gangster or rapper: that of a serial killer.

As the series weaves together the narratives of Reeve and Gaines, the creative interplay of scenes builds suspense, making viewers suspect that Gaines could be the cause of the murders — a suspicion that is partly correct but not entirely, in true Them fashion.

Luke James as Edmund

Luke James as Edmund
| Photo Credit:
Quantrell Colbert

With a mastery of scene settings and a strong chilling atmosphere from the outset, Them: The Scare captivates viewers. The series’ subtle nods and connections to its forerunner are commendable. Nevertheless, despite the craftsmanship and acting, it doesn’t quite hit the peak of spine-tingling excellence seen in shows like The Haunting of Hill House. While the first season balanced drama and thrilling elements, ‘The Scare’ is somewhat lacking in the expected scares and suspense of the genre. With future installments likely, one hopes that the creators can find a more satisfying mix.

Them: The Scare is currently available for streaming on Prime Video.

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