This Underrated Prime Video Series Reinvents Television Horror

Them: The Scare is a unique horror anthology series that delves deep into discrimination and social issues through terrifying storytelling.

The show combines body horror and psychological terror to create an intense viewing experience that addresses real-world fears of injustice.

Through realistic and disturbing storytelling, Them: The Scare manages to educate audiences about the experiences of marginalized communities in a hauntingly effective way.


Horror anthologies have always been a popular subgenre, with TV shows especially letting creators use their platforms to tell different stories that each have a unique style of petrifying audiences. One of the newest additions to this category is Them: The Scare, created by Little Marvin on Prime Video and continuing the themes of racism and supernatural terror he began exploring in 2021’s Them: Covenant. This series has joined other television powerhouses in becoming a fantastic horror anthology, but its first few episodes make it clear: this is unlike anything audiences have ever seen.

This season is scary, yes, but how the show utilizes every aspect of the viewing experience to unnerve audiences is what makes it such a disturbing dissection of discrimination in society. Whether it be showing paranormal happenings or the uneasy feelings that come from being the only “different” one in a space, by painting in vivid detail the fears that accompany living as a marginalized person, the program uses a horror lens to stress the real-world terrors that (sadly) so many in the audience are familiar with. This series may not be the only horror anthology out there, but with its dreadful method of showcasing the complex themes at its center, Them: The Scare excels in ways that no other show has.


‘Them: The Scare’ Goes Places Other Shows Won’t

Them: The Scare joins a thriving subgenre of TV anthologies working hard to scare audiences in different ways each season. From Slasher to Channel Zero, excellent shows like these benefit from mixing up their approach; anthologies allow artists to flex their creative muscles in different ways with each installment, thinking of new fears to draw on with their story and attempting new approaches to aspects like gore or psychological horror. One of the biggest successes is American Horror Story, a cultural mainstay that for more than a decade has petrified fans with interconnected seasons each featuring a fearful new premise.

This is one of the most prominent anthologies, and with the large impact it’s had on society, it makes sense many of its seasons have drawn on social issues to scare viewers — to mixed results. Many iterations have attempted to portray the fright of having your rights be constantly attacked, but they refuse to truly spotlight how scary it can be to exist in a space that has historically targeted those with your identities. Even in seasons like Cult or NYC that ground themselves in the terror of hatred, this show — like so many others — focuses on characters who have historically avoided the worst aspects of unjust authority, with most television series like it missing the consciousness required to use horror as a conduit for real social issues affecting the most underserved parts of their audience.

Enter Them, a series whose first season focused on a Black family moving into an all-White, 1950s neighborhood, having to face off against the cruel racism of their neighbors and the monstrosities haunting their new home. It was the latest in a renaissance of socially conscious projects such as Get Out or Blood Quantum, with modern audiences who are of marginalized identities finally seeing stories that resonate with their own experiences (while still featuring the terrifying elements they yearn for). This freshman outing featured themes of racism and human wickedness, ones that are expanded on in Them: The Scare.

This second season shifts focus to Dawn (played by a returning Deborah Ayorinde), an LAPD detective who struggles not only with tracking down a serial killer — who may be more supernatural than she could ever suspect — but also with trying to use her role in the police department to prevent unjust policing against her community. The story pairs her plot with that of Edmund (Luke James), a wannabe actor whose ‘method acting’ takes him to some disturbing places, with both stories featuring heavy scares while still reiterating the real fears of corrupt authority and blatant bigotry that still exist today. It tries to provide viewers with a hauntingly visceral, understandable representation of the terrors of society like no series has ever tried before — and it is devastatingly perfect.


‘Them: The Scare’ Understands Its Audience’s Fear

When it comes to purely superficial frights, Them: The Scare is filled with nonstop moments of body horror that most cable networks would never be allowed to air. As Dawn struggles to track down her serial killer, audiences learn quickly that this unseen assailant stalks each victim for days beforehand, breaking down their sanity with his mental torture before brutally breaking every bone in their body — and keeping them awake for every second of it. Viewers get an intimate view of each victim, with the gruesome horror being constantly bolstered by the psychological terror that almost every scene with Edmund carries.

Other shows have tried to paint the steady degradation of a person’s psyche before, but the way this show depicts his steady turn from mild-mannered arcade mascot into a killer out-of-touch with reality makes every scene with the man thoroughly uncomfortable. Seeing him commit to becoming a monster like the movie villains he admires is a truly unnerving journey, one that climaxes in gut-wrenching scenes of grotesquely broken bones and bashed-in heads. This, paired with the body horror of Dawn’s storyline, is an astoundingly effective approach to fear, though each pales in comparison to the true terror at the core of this series: the effects of unjust policing.

The season’s plot is shaped by its timeline: the first episode comes shortly after the Rodney King Riots — a well-documented, real attack in 1991 that saw Rodney King, a Black man, be brutally and unlawfully beaten by a group of police — which gives viewers an instant understanding of what Dawn hopes to fight against in her role as a Detective. Through her uniquely intimate view of this kind of trauma as a Black woman and a member of the police, the show emphasizes how interactions with authority can be just as frightening as facing a demon in communities that have long been abused by those in power.

Yet it doesn’t reduce Dawn’s experience to one of pure hardship; through heartwarming scenes with her mother, Athena (the legendary Pam Grier), and son, Kelvin (Joshua J. Williams), audiences learn of the love at the heart of all Dawn’s choices and why she is so desperate to craft a world where those closest to her don’t have to be scared. Shows have tried to use their fear as a platform for social messages, but never has a TV anthology captured the emotions that reside in living in a country where those meant to protect you instead choose to hurt you as exceptionally as this. It’s an exceptional intersection that offers an insight many watchers may not be familiar with — with the show shedding light on a subject rarely fully discussed.

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The Horror of ‘Them: The Scare’ Has Never Been Seen Before on Television

Television has always been an excellent platform for horror creators, with Them: The Scare joining the ranks of legendary series that have used the episode format to disturb viewers week after week. And while it’s similar to many of these shows for how effectively it unnerves those watching, the series’ story captures a realistic, disturbing aspect of the human experience that too many shows shirk in their scares. This is not at the expense of blatant acts of fear — it still imbues each episode with gut-wrenching imagery and suspense. Instead, it uses this more visible terror to embody the everyday fears that communities facing discrimination experience constantly.

Yet it doesn’t simplify these communities to this horror either. Through Dawn’s relationships, the show provides a broad understanding of not only the experiences of people fighting against discrimination, but also of the joy that can be found even as bigots spew hatred in the hopes of making these communities lose their nerve to fight back. It’s an expensive, hauntingly effective series that uses its terror to educate its audience, and is a complete innovation for the genre.

Them: The Scare is Available to Stream on Amazon Prime Video in the U.S.

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