They/Them review – a revenge film that hardly leaves a mark

By Marc Miller
Published: August 6, 2022


The only thing unsettling about the Peacock horror film They/Them is how few risks the filmmakers take.

This review of the Peacock film They/Them does not contain spoilers.

They/Them is a surprisingly tame psychological horror film streaming on Peacock this week. There are very few jump scares. When the few murders happen, much of the gory bloodshed is off-screen, which is unusual for a Blumhouse production. This horror picture doesn’t exactly increase the viewer’s anxiety — no armrest will be needed to grab onto here. In fact, the only unsettling thing is how few risks, besides the basic premise, They/Them takes. This is your typical revenge horror picture that thinks it has a big bite but hardly leaves a mark.

The story follows what happens at an LGBTQ+ conversion camp run by Owen (Kevin Bacon) and his wife Cora (Carrie Preston). They have a staff of loyal team members, most being former residents. Zane (Boone Platt) is the athletic director, who Owen says is now straight as an arrow. His fiancé, Sarah Haley Griffith) runs the “ladies” portion of the curriculum and specializes in pies and flirting with her students. The nurse, Molly (Anna Chlumsky), is new and is the only outlet for the residents to find empathy.

The campers arrive by bus with their family’s hopes attached to the camp’s success, just hoping Owen and company can pray away their indiscretions. You have Jordan (Theo Germaine), who identifies as trans/non-binary and utilizes the pronouns they/them. Alexandra lies to the camp about their transition. Toby’s (Austin Crute) parents want him to be straight; the same goes for Kim (Anna Lore), who likes women, but she comes from a “traditional” home. You have your star athlete, Cooper, terrified of his homosexual thoughts. Unfortunately, they arrived at a horrible time because now a masked ax murderer is currently running around the campsite while they are being scared straight. However, it’s not all blood and guts. Apparently, the best sex is conversion camp sex. Trust me, don’t come-a-knockin when the dock-is-Rockin.

First-time director John Logan, writer of such big budget critical hits as Skyfall, Aviator, Sweeny Todd, and Rango, pens the script and does an admirable job of casting most of the main cast with young actors of the LGBTQ+ community. Logan does set up a couple of surprises, mainly with actors like Darwin del Fabro and Monique Kim, carrying secrets with decent reveals. You will notice that the camp employees will use traditional pronouns that refer to someone’s biology (a social construct). The residents will use pronouns that are respectful to their chosen gender identity. This is brought up often and creates a natural tension within the storytelling.

It turns out the film is boring and just not scary. And that’s saying something when they much talked about cringe-worthy Pink sing-along makes the film feel like this is your father’s slasher film trying to fit in with today’s modern young adult LGBTQ+ world by showing everyone how cool and hip they are. By far, the most interesting thing in They/Them is Kevin Bacon’s Owen. He has a touching, empathic scene with Jordan at the film’s beginning that quickly spirals towards unhinged Victor Sykes territory. The killer is rather apparent from the start. Since most of the characters show enough evidence of where their allegiance lies, there is only one left who it could be.

I can admire the attempt, but Logan misses a prime opportunity to bring a fresh perspective to the horror genre through a lens he knows all too well. It’s an exciting idea. Trying to capture the modern-day anxiety of growing up in fear of being a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Just look at the horror films by Jordan Peele in the past decade. He has put his stamp on making films that are horrific metaphors about the oppressed experiences of the African-American community. However, this is like changing the packaging without a change to the product.

While there is an opportunity for a film that can combine the themes behind Boy Erased and the slasher commentary of Friday the 13th, They/Them is not the one.

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