‘They/Them’ Movie Review
*insert obligatory “slay” pun*
They/Them is a new Peacock original slasher film written and directed by award-winning playwright and screenwriter John Logan. The film is about a conversion camp for queer youth run by the charismatic Owen Whistler (Kevin Bacon) where we follow a group of new arrivals, particularly a nonbinary teen named Jordan (Theo Germaine). I don’t want to say anymore about the plot, but needless to say, they don’t exactly try to make queer conversion therapy look good (which it isn’t).
The title is a reference to the increasingly common use of they and them as gender neutral pronouns, with the “slash” giving the title a double meaning. When I first heard about the movie, I said that even if the movie sucks, the title is pretty brilliant. Overall, I enjoyed They/Them. The subject matter is really the main thing keeping it from being mediocre, because it’s otherwise nothing special, but the themes and characters keep it somewhat interesting. People online are already bitching about it being “woke”, as one might expect, so clearly it’s pissing off the right people. It’s a pretty breezy, entertaining movie for the most part, although there are some scenes that might trigger some queer viewers who have gone through such treatment, so be warned.
Part of what kept this movie afloat for me was the characters. Kevin Bacon is just outstanding as the camp director. He’s so eerily charming when we’re first introduced to him, with his beaming smile and warm demeanor. You know he’s evil, and you’re waiting for it to show, but the fact that we’re introduced to him as a seemingly friendly, caring person is extra sinister. Theo Germaine makes for a pretty solid protagonist, although he’s mostly there to be the audience avatar (in real life, Germaine uses he/him pronouns, I believe). Three of the standout performances came from Quei Tann, Cooper Koch, and Anna Lore. Tann, who is a Black trans woman, plays Alexandra, a character who is humiliated pretty early on, giving the audience a taste of things to come. Tann brings a lovely realness to this character, and her heartbreaking struggle makes you root that much harder for her to triumph. Koch and Lore play sort of parallel characters. Koch plays Stu, a masculine, conventionally attractive young man who happens to be gay, whereas Lore plays Kim, a feminine, conventionally attractive young woman in the same boat. While their struggles mimic plenty of other characters from existing movies about defying society’s expectations, the stakes are raised by the dire rhetoric and mistreatment at the hands of the camp staff (again, potential triggers).
The film still has plenty of detractors that keep it from being the new classic that I, and plenty of others, were hoping it would be. The pacing is pretty inconsistent, for one. There are certain plot elements that will get very little attention at first, and then they’ll become a sudden focal point. The film also seemed to have trouble juggling its multiple conflicts. This isn’t a spoiler, but there is also a killer on the loose. I understand why they felt the need to include a more conventional slasher villain alongside the much more grounded, real-life horrors of conversion therapy, especially since it eventually leads to someone directly referencing Jason Vorhees (Kevin Bacon, of course, appeared in the original Friday the 13th). But it led to a jumbled third act that didn’t feel entirely earned. The film also just isn’t particularly suspenseful or atmospheric. I would say it’s probably better for younger audiences who aren’t ready for more intense horror, but the sex and profanity kind of ruin that for it. I’m not personally of the mindset that a horror movie is only as good as its ability to scare, but it did feel a bit too tame for what it was going for. Lastly, I have to mention that at the beginning of the movie, a character encounters a CGI deer that looks absolutely abysmal. I know the movie’s budget couldn’t have been particularly high, but yikes, it was bad.
They/Them isn’t quite able to achieve its desired goal of being a new queer horror classic, but its high points make it an entertaining enough viewing. Sure, it doesn’t break any new ground or offer any unique scares, but it’s got a solid cast, and the inclusivity is always nice to see.
TRIGGER WARNING: hate crimes, abuse.
About the Creator
I’m an actor and director of stage and screen. But I also dabble in standup, and on this site, horror movie criticism. I’m just a guy who loves horror movies, and I like to share that love with the world.
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