They/Them is a 2022 American slasher film written and directed by John Logan in his feature directorial debut, and produced by Blumhouse Productions.
It stars Kevin Bacon, Carrie Preston, Anna Chlumsky, Theo Germaine, Quei Tann, Anna Lore, Monique Kim, Darwin del Fabro, Cooper Koch, and Austin Crute, and follows a group of LGBTQ teens who are targeted by a serial killer while attending a conversion camp.
The film premiered at the Outfest film festival on July 24, 2022, and was released for streaming on Peacock on August 5, 2022.
Kevin Bacon plays Owen Whistler in this slasher horror film set at an LGBTQIA+ conversion camp.
Several queer campers join Whistler for a week of programming intended to “help them find a new sense of freedom”. As the camp’s methods become increasingly more psychologically unsettling, the campers must work together to protect themselves. When an unidentified axe murderer starts claiming victims, things get even more dangerous.
Conversion therapy refers to the use of psychological or spiritual methods to try and change someone’s gender or sexual identity to the desired cisgender, straight orientation. These treatments have no basis in science or fact. There’s no quantifiable proof that any such interventions can change a person’s sexual or gender identity.
Dangerous LGBTQ+ ‘conversion’ therapies are still used in the United States and across the world. These detrimental therapies as demonstrated in the movie are often hidden in plain sight, widely accessible, adopted and ‘packaged’ in a way to make the use seem less heinous and detrimental for the individual undergoing these forms of ‘therapy’.
Kevin Bacon has a great turn as camp leader Owen Whistler who at first seems overly welcoming and accepting of the campers whilst leaving you with the slightly skin-crawling sensation and sense of dread that builds throughout the film as we realise all is not quite as it seems. His performance is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the film.
Credit should also be given to the younger cast for dealing with such sensitive and troublesome subject matter, especially Theo Germaine whose trans youth character Jordan does a lot of the heavy lifting in this story.
People who have survived conversion therapy often experience shame, anger, anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. They may be forced to hide their gender or sexual identity, feel unsafe in their community, and lose hope of a happy future.
When the killer is eventually revealed we can see how this can have devastating and sometimes deadly consequences for those involved.
The film as a whole however is somewhat unsatisfying and leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
The first hour of the film is a slow burn and plays more like a psychological thriller/dramedy than a horror film as it struggles to strike a clear tone. The last 30 mins then feels extremely rushed as most of the action and crucial plot points are seemingly crammed in.
The film has a lot to unpack during it’s runtime and would be better retooled as a mini series and not a feature film. Due to this we don’t really get much charecter development for most of the campers and counsellors which leads to the later kills lacking impact – infact there is a group of ‘miscellaneous’ campers which appear to just be set dressing.
The traditional slasher trope of being scared whilst watching a ‘kill scene’ is flipped in this film. The usual feeling of discomfort and dread is more present for the viewer during the ‘therapy’ scenes compared to the ‘kills’ – which on the whole are very tame especially compared to modern day horror standards.
Tonally the film struggles to find the right balance between embracing trauma and celebrating empowerment which is slightly problematic.
There are attempts to make use of the summer camp horror tropes which feel tired and out of place when addressing such important social issues.
It’s really important that the audience takes away from the movie, that there is nothing wrong with being lesbian, gay, bi, trans, non-binary, or another identity. It should be celebrated rather than feared, suppressed, or punished.
2.5/5 – A film with an important message but with fatal errors in it’s delivery.
They/Them is available now exclusively on Peacock.
The U.K. has recently made steps to ban conversion therapy for gay or bisexual people in England and Wales, however not enough steps have been made to protect the transgender community from these horrific practices.
For more information and support on Conversion Therapy go to https://www.banconversiontherapy.com/
Check out our editorial retrospective piece Horror and the LGBT community
Review: Pray Away (Conversion Therapy documentary from Netflix, Ryan Murphy & Jason Blum)