They/Them (2022) Review!!

Synopsis –A group of teenagers at an LGBTQ+ conversion camp endures unsettling psychological techniques while being stalked by a mysterious masked killer.

My Take – It is easy to understand why Blumhouse would decide to back this latest Peacock released feature. A slasher set in a Sleepaway Camp or Camp Crystal Lake reminiscent gay conversion camp run by Kevin Bacon, a proud Friday the 13th alum and starring a young LGBTQ+ cast.

Also adding to the fact the film marks the directorial debut of writer John Logan, a three-time Academy Award nominee; twice for Best Original Screenplay for Gladiator (2000) and The Aviator (2004), and once for Best Adapted Screenplay for Hugo (2011), who has also dabbled in the Bond franchise with Skyfall (2012) and Spectre (2015).

But while one can admire the attempt the intentions behind the film, which tries to capture the modern-day anxiety of growing up in fear of being a member of the LGBTQ+ community, it can’t help but feel like a misguided and ultimately missed opportunity to bring a fresh perspective to the horror genre, especially through a lens director Logan himself knows all too well.

Sure, although the film finds ways to occasionally allude to the dangers of conversion therapy, but rarely does it conjure up any sense of dread with its scattered serial killer story. Resulting in an ultimately dull slasher that quickly runs out of ideas, both narrative wise and style wise, and by the time it reaches its whimper of a conclusion, it feels more like a disservice to the community it intends to pay tribute to. And that’s saying something considering it contains a scene where the young cast takes part in a cringe-worthy Pink sing-along, showing everyone how cool and hip they are, despite being stuck inside a dull and uninspired slasher.

The story follows Jordan (Theo Germaine), a trans non-binary, who along with Trans woman Alexandra (Quei Tann), flamboyant gay man Toby (Austin Crute), closeted lesbian Kim (Anna Lore), open bisexual Veronica (Monique Kim) and gay man Stu (Cooper Koch), who due to various reasons either through coercion of their families or out of societal pressure, find themselves attending Whistler Camp, a conversion camp owned and run Owen (Kevin Bacon) and his wife Cora (Carrie Preston).

They also have a staff of loyal team members, most being former residents like Zane (Boone Platt), the athletic director, who Owen says is now straight as an arrow, his fiancé, Sarah (Haley Griffith), who runs the ladies portion of the curriculum and specializes in pies and flirting with her students, and Molly (Anna Chlumsky), the new nurse and the only one in the outlet who has any kind of empathy for the attendees.

But while Owen tries to present a friendly and welcoming environment at first, the veneer is eroded over time as the camp’s oppressive atmosphere and barely concealed contempt for deviation from hetero normative standards takes darker turns day after day. With things only getting worse with a masked murderer being thrown into the mix at the campsite.

The film actually starts off well, with many ingredients of a legit horror film: an opening scene with a masked assassin, a sleep-away camp in the woods stocked with torture devices, a group of teens poised to engage in forbidden sex, all arriving one after the other like a check list. But then despite centering on the terror of conversion therapy, the film never becomes the stuff of nightmares. Instead, it delivers a feel-good folktale wrapped in a tidy happily-ever-after bow.

The kills are very dull and non-inventive, there’s no creativity here. There’s no tension or even any chase scenes. And when the few murders happen, much of the gory bloodshed is off-screen, which is unusual for a Blumhouse production.

It’s so half-baked that no one really seems aware that there’s a mystery afoot, or even a killer on the loose, until the bloodless final act. It almost makes the slasher part of the film feel unnecessary, and almost a completely different film than the first half. In fact, the only unsettling thing is how few risks, besides the basic premise, the film takes. By the time the film reaches its conclusion, it does so with a whimper and the question of what the point of a lot of this really was in the first place.

As we watch the psychological abuse of these LGBTQ+ teens on screen ultimately lead nowhere, it’s easy to wonder what the point of this film really was. As a horror film about conversion camps, there’s something in its script that could lend itself to that premise pretty strongly, but the film never really goes beyond the conceptual stage with this particular angle.

When it leans more towards being a slasher, it feels underdeveloped and when it leans towards being more exploitative, it’s uncomfortable and at odds with its overall narrative thesis. By the time the end credits kick in, it feels like the first draft of a film, while undoubtedly well-intentioned, that can’t help but feel muddled and confused with its own identity.

Performance wise, Kevin Bacon gives it his all as Owen Whistler, the head of a gay conversion camp, and Theo Germaine manages to be a standout due to the depth given to her their character. However, despite by their admirable work, the rest of the cast comprising of Carrie Preston, Austin Crute, Anna Lore, Boone Platt, Cooper Koch, Monique Kim, Quei Tann, Darwin del Fabro, and Haley Griffith are dwarfed by the film’s flaws. With Anna Chlumsky getting the shortest end of the stick as her role makes so little sense it’s like she wandered on set without so much as a script outline to guide her way. On the whole, ‘They/Them’ is a dull and pointless slasher flick that does nothing with its potential premise.

Directed –

Starring – Kevin Bacon, Anna Chlumsky, Carrie Preston

Rated – TV-MA

Run Time – 104 minutes

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