It’s a good time to be a horror fan, as the genre has been experiencing a renaissance for about a decade. Many of the modern classics that have hit theaters over the years have come from Blumhouse Productions, including hits such as get-out, The Invisible Manand 2018’s Halloween. The latest of these great releases is John Logan’s They/Themset to be released as Peacock exclusive.
Screenwriter John Logan makes his directorial debut with They/Them, which he also wrote and produced alongside Jason Blum. The new flick is a horror movie set at a gay conversion camp, which combines classic horror tropes a la Friday the 13th with contemporary characters and storylines. And to make the connection to Jason Voorhees even stronger, original Friday the 13th actor Kevin Bacon is both a star and producer in They/Them.
Despite these similarities, the new slasher is an LGBTQ+-focused story that’s never been told in this way. And while the atrocities of Whistler Camp’s “treatments” are already terrifying enough, the horror is intensified with a masked killer on the loose.
They/Them’s authentic cast of queer characters shine.
For some reason, the horror genre is one toward which the LGBTQ+ community is known for historically gravitating. And that’s part of why They/Them feels like such a triumph; it’s a movie made by queer talent both in front of and behind the camera. As such, queer members of the audiences can literally see themselves on screen, rather than identifying with characters who aren’t explicitly LGBTQ+. The pain performed by closed characters is visceral and real, as is the sense of community that forms between the campers.
The Politicians star Theo Germaine is at the head of the group of young stars as non-binary protagonist Jordan. They help to buy They/Them‘s 90-minute runtime with a quintessential horror movie performance that is full of emotional peaks and valleys. Germaine has scenes with the entire cast, including the impressive group of performers who are playing the adults of the camp – including Kevin Bacon as well as Carrie Preston and Anna Chlumsky.
Another standout is book smart‘s Austin Crute, who is They/Them‘s primary source of comedic relief, Toby. While these beats of humor are effective, Crute also rises to the occasion when his character is targeted by Whistler Camp’s methods. The young cast is rounded out by solid performances by Monique Kim, Anna Lore, Cooper Koch, and Darwin del Fabro.
While They/Them is indeed a horror movie, the moments of levity utilized by John Logan stand out. Often times this occurs thanks to dialogue and interpersonal interactions in the young cast. While their identities are under attack, the campers create a chosen family and are able to affirm each other throughout the movie’s runtime. Sometimes that’s with a sassy comeback by Austin Crute’s Toby, and sometimes its a full-on singalong to P!nk’s song “Fucking Perfect.”
Kevin Bacon and They/Them’s counselors deepen the story with killer performances.
Of course, no creepy camp would be complete without a group of adults as the counselors. They/Them delivers on that front with a number of familiar faces. Front and center is none other than the great Kevin Bacon, who is making yet another stamp on the horror genre with the Peacock movie. Bacon has been front and center of the slasher movie’s marketing, and even beyond star power it’s clear why, as his performance as Owen Whistler contains crowds that make it delightfully unclear exactly where his loyalties lie.
TrueBlood and The Good Wife actress Carrie Preston plays Owen’s wife Cora in They/Them, and offers a performance that shows why she’s an Emmy winner. One particular scene with Theo Jermaine’s Jordan, as she gaslights them about their identity de ella, is a masterclass in mental warfare.
Finally, veep and Inventing Anna actress Anna Chlumsky plays Molly, who is the nurse on staff at Whistler Camp. A newcomer to the camp, Chlumsky offers a warm and hopeful juxtaposition to the ways the staff otherwise humiliates the young queer campers. Like her co-stars of ella, the My Girl star further elevates the material with her performance as part of a strong ensemble of actors.
While the ending might be predictable, They/Them is a celebration of queer culture and horror.
As with any slasher, the big mystery surrounding They/Them is exactly who the masked killer is that is running around Whistler Camp taking people out. I won’t be spoiling that identity, but you’ll likely figure it out for yourself in advance of the reveal, as it’s a tad predictable. Regardless, that doesn’t take away from the entertainment of the bloody events that John Logan’s horror movie plays out.
This is particularly because of a methodical quality in Logan’s approach. Each young actor gets a moment to shine, showing a different aspect of the queer experience. And while the movie features bloody kills and murder, it also shows how violent words can be. When characters are purposefully misgendered or a transgender character is referred to by their dead name, it elicits the same anxious feelings as a chase scene. And while this might have been somewhat painful or triggering for the LBGTQ+ actors, the performances are dynamic and it’s clear that the creatives have done their proper homework with the subject matter.
While there’s been an exciting upswing for queer visibility in horror movie, They/Them is a love letter to both horror and the LGBTQ+ community. The queer characters are exciting and complex heroes whom we root for and whose motivations and history are fully fleshed out. This helps raise the stakes of the action, while also providing an emotionally satisfying conclusion. And while there might be plenty of queer theory and references throughout They/Them, it’s also an accessible and fun horror movie for those audiences who might not be as immersed in the queer LGBTQ+ community. It’s a fun horror romp that mixes emotionality with laughs and screams.