Series creator Little Marvin speaks to EW about his influences, including The Exorcist, Blue Velvet, The Wizard of Oz, and more.

By Clark Collis
April 02, 2021 at 11:10 AM EDT

In the '50s-set Amazon Prime Video anthology horror show Them, Deborah Ayorinde and Ashley Thomas play parents of two girls who move into the then-all white Los Angeles neighborhood of Compton.

"The show follows the Emory family, a Black family, who in the wake of a tragedy move across country to Los Angeles," the show's creator Little Marvin tells EW. "They are very quickly preyed upon by their neighbors in an effort to get them to move out. While that's happening outside the home, something malevolent has gripped them from within. So, it's really about the battle outside and inside for this family."

Credit: Courtesy of Amazon Prime Video

Little Marvin is a self-confessed movie nut, whose array of loves range from the Sam Neill-starring horror cult classic Possession to the melodramas of Douglas Sirk. Below, the showrunner talks about five movies that inspired Them.

1. Don't Look Now (1976)

LITTLE MARVIN: First of all, can I just say it's deeply cruel to ask a person to pick five. [Laughs] I did everything short of create an Excel spreadsheet, because I had so many categories of what, why, and who. Nicolas Roeg's film Don't Look Now is an examination of grief wrapped in a story about the occult. It seamlessly merges those two things so beautifully, anchored by two ferociously beautiful performances from Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie. There's scenes of great heartbreak. Donald Sutherland wading through the lake to retrieve his daughter's body is heart-wrenching and dreadful in the truest sense of the word. It's one of my favorites.

2. Blue Velvet (1986)

LM: Frankly, anything David Lynch, but I think Blue Velvet is the apotheosis of everything David Lynch in one film. I love his ability to mine the dreamscape. Everything's just a little left of center, a little left of real, which is what nightmares feel like, and I take great inspiration from his ability to do that. I love the dark side of sunny places, which that movie absolutely is, from the minute it pans down on those red roses, and goes beneath the earth, and you see the dung beetles ravenously doing whatever the f--- they're doing down there. [Laughs] It's just so frightening, but wrapped in that suburban coziness. That's an all-time favorite.

3. The Wizard of Oz (1939)

LM: The Wizard of Oz was a huge inspiration even on the first 10 minutes of the pilot. In both cases, it's a young woman on a farm in a sepia-colored world — more auburn-tinted in our world  — who suddenly awakes in a Technicolor world. The first 10 minutes of that was very much inspired by the Wizard of Oz but also by my love of all the old MGM Technicolor musicals.

4. The Exorcist (1973)

LM: This is more of a forever-inspiration for me. It's the mother lode of everything I love about this genre. It's character-driven, it's anchored by two ferocious performances by Ellen Burstyn and Linda Blair. It's slow burn, more slow burn than most people realize. The first 45 minutes are extremely methodical, takes its time, and then the dread just ratchets until it's unbearable. There's still moments that I gasp. I can't believe even today that that movie was made. I think it's a perfect film.

5. Carrie (1976)

LM: The honorable mentions are Martin Scorsese's Cape Fear, Straw Dogs, Deliverance, Far From Heaven, The Shining, all of Hitchcock particularly Vertigo, Possession, Night of the Living Dead, In the Mood for Love, which might seem strange but Wong Kar-wai is a forever inspiration and the way that dresses and wallpaper come together in beautiful ways was a huge inspiration on our production team.

Let's pick Carrie, for no other reason than again it's two ferocious women performances. I think Piper Laurie's performance in that is wildly underrated. I listen to Pino Donaggio's Carrie score constantly. I'm a sucker for a Bria De Palma split diopter shot. We use them all over the show, because I just love them. In fact, Checco Varese, who is our DP, who is amazing, he was like, "It's not cool when you do it on every shot."

Them costars Melody Hurd, Shahadi Wright Joseph, and Alison Pill and the show is executive-produced by Lena Waithe. Them premieres on Amazon Prime Video, April 9.

Watch the trailer for Them above.

Related content: