REVIEW: ‘They/Them’ Isn’t the Slasher You’re Expecting and That’s Okay!

Reading Time: 4 minutes

They/Them - But Why Tho

They/Them is a Peacock Original movie produced by Blumhouse and directed and written by John Logan. At a gay conversion therapy camp run by Kevin Bacon‘s Owen, his wife Cora (Carrie Preston), the nurse Molly (Anna Chlumsky), and the models of perfect genre conformity Zane (Boone Platt) and Sarah (Hayley Griffith), a new group of kids arrive for all different reasons. Jordan (Theo Germaine) was promised emancipation if they went. Others are there against their will. And some want desperately to stop being gay. None of them are ready for the week ahead.

You have to understand two things about this movie before getting into it to calibrate your expectations correctly: it’s very low-key on the horror and the horror elements don’t take place in the ways you expect from a standard thriller. Frankly, the movie is nearly more of a gruesome murder mystery than it is a slasher. The kills aren’t especially interesting, the gore isn’t too overwhelming, and the scariest parts come from the movie’s premise more than anything.

All of that is to say, I like the movie. Is it a bit hokey? Sure. Is it a tad unsure of what kind of movie it wants to be? Certainly, it meanders a bit too much while waxing poetic about its morals a bit too overtly. But that doesn’t make it bad. In fact, by the end, it really did feel quite well tied- together and even though I certainly don’t need to be learning the movie’s lessons for myself, I couldn’t help but have the finale work on me. Plus, as somebody who has little interest in traditional horror, I’m perfectly fine with the movie being more of a light thriller than anything. The scariest part of They/Them, frankly, is that aside from the serial murders, there is literally nothing unrealistic about it.

First, Kevin Bacon is excellent here. He plays his role scarily well, beginning with a speech that would make even the best camp director blush (and believe me, I know a lot of good camp directors) about how he isn’t there to stop them from being gay and how they all belong at that camp no matter what. I was so endeared by him so quickly, despite knowing full well he would make a rapid turn into a menacing bigot. And when he does make that turn, it’s still with that hint of that charm, making it all the more creepy.

The whole queer cast of queer teens is pretty solid too. There are some stilted lines in the script and somewhat dull performances, especially when Jordan is grandstanding, and one sex scene is a tad cringy. I do think that most of the other characters were more interesting than Jordan was and could have been better main protagonists (I’m looking at Alexandra (Quei Tann) and Toby (Austin Crute). But the representation of kids attending a camp, even this despicable kind of camp, is one of the most on-point I’ve seen recently. All of the talk of belonging, breaking down barriers, and finding who you are is for sure, obviously, but what I find so charming about They/Them is that it actually doesn’t devolve into a trite trip down trauma lane for the kids.

Instead, they spend a lot of the movie just being a group of queer teens at a camp, down to the full-blown singalong. How they all knew all the words to a P!nk song almost as old as them? I don’t know, but my disbelief is suspended because honestly, I’ve been in too many of those exact kinds of spontaneous singing moments not to know exactly how enrapturing they can be. I will suffer no comparisons to awkward teen musical media on this one; it was more naturally integrated than any Glee number and had me laughing pretty well.

Of course, the camp is an abominable place doing a heinous thing in every way you probably can imagine. As I said, the horror comes more from the fact that places like this doing these things to teens really genuinely exist than the horrible things we see happen. But for the most part, those gruesome and horror-ish moments are executed pretty fairly. They’re pretty intrinsically tied to the movie’s greater commentary on gay conversion and heterosexism and transphobia. I don’t think They/Them lands every single one of its attempts perfectly, sometimes because of corny lines, sometimes because of over-acting. But altogether, I finished the movie feeling pretty decent about both its message and how it chose to go about examining it for the length of the movie.

They/Them isn’t really what I was expecting, but as somebody who has little interest generally in horror and even less experience watching it, I was ultimately glad for the kind of movie that it wound up being. I would say it’s more of a creepy murder mystery with slight gore and a thriller element to it more so than a horror movie. Its greatest horror is in its realism and Kevin Bacon’s scary good performance.

They/They is streaming now on Peacock.


They/Them
  • 7/10
    Rating - 7/10
7/10

TL;DR

They/Them isn’t really what I was expecting, but as somebody who has little interest generally in horror and even less experience watching it, I was ultimately glad for the kind of movie that it wound up being. I would say it’s more of a creepy murder mystery with slight gore and a thriller element to it more so than a horror movie. Its greatest horror is in its realism and Kevin Bacon’s scary good performance.

But Why Tho? A Geek Community
%d bloggers like this: