‘THEM’: Douglas Sirk Inspired Little Marvin’s Nightmarish Look at the American Dream

The new Amazon Prime Video series “THEM” has a lot packed into its 10 episodes, but at its heart, according to creator Little Marvin, the show is about exploring the American dream. “I’ve been thinking a lot, like all of us have, about this country, where we’re going, and who has, historically speaking, got their keys to the dream and who have not,” he said during the series’ recent press event. “There’s nothing more emblematic of that [American] dream than home ownership.”

“Them” tells the story of the Emorys, a Black family in the 1950s who moves into the — at the time — all-white community of Compton, California. As they start to settle in, the family faces not only face rampant racism from their white neighbors, led by Betty Wendell (Alison Pill), but also a strange supernatural entity.

Marvin said the terror of navigating the country in Black skin, which goes all the way back the creation of the United States, was a secondary goal for him in developing the series. A self-confessed lover of Los Angeles history, he didn’t know much about the transition of Compton from a white to a Black community, so the research process was deep and involved. “To think that only 60, 70 years ago that … those [white] folks were virulently protective of their whiteness and of their block, to me, was like a lightbulb,” Marvin said.

He also drew inspiration from the horror thrillers of the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s, including Alfred Hitchcock, William Friedkin, and Brian De Palma. “‘Carrie’ is a massively influential movie to me,” he said. Little Marvin also said he’s a huge fan of melodrama, and that a heavy dose of the series’ inspiration comes from the work of director Douglas Sirk, as well as Todd Haynes’ subversion of Sirk’s work in the 2002 feature “Far From Heaven.”

Adding to that sense of timeliness is the appearance of Pill, who has hearkened back to the Golden Age of Hollywood in films like “Midnight in Paris” and “Hail, Caesar!” She said what draws her to a project isn’t necessarily the period angle, but the story itself. “Before I was like ‘Yeah, it’s a job,’” she said. “Now [I’m] looking more at why we tell stories and what stories we need to be hearing and amplifying.”

All episodes of “THEM” are currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

This video was produced by Creative Producer Leonardo Adrian Garcia.

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