They/Them (2022) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

They/Them (2022) Review

Horrorific content by adrian on July 28th, 2022 | Movie Review | Slasher, Survival, Blumhouse, Psychological, Wilderness, Teen, Maniac, Isolation, Stalker

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It's about campers at an LGBTQ conversion camp who are suddenly attacked by a masked killer.

They/Them was directed by John Logan and stars Theo Germaine (Night’s End), Kevin Bacon (You Should Have Left, The Darkness, and Hollow Man), Quei TannAustin CruteMonique KimAnna Lore (Contracted: Phase II), Cooper Koch (Swallowed), Darwin del FaboAnna Chlumsky (Blood Car), and Carrie Preston (30 Miles from Nowhere).

They/Them (2022) Review

John Logan's Gothic horror drama "Penny Dreadful" breathed new life into classic literary horror figures by exploring the ethos of monsters. For his directorial feature debut, Logan now turns his attention to a familiar horror trope: the summer camp slasher. The movie "They/Them" is about an LGBTQIA+ conversion summer camp. It focuses more on the characters and their development than on scares and thrills, making for a more thought-provoking movie than a traditional horror film.

After a required opening kill, They/Them unloads a bunch of unwilling and unenthusiastic campers at Whistler Camp. The teens are greeted by proprietor Owen Whistler and his small staff. Owen's rousing speech to the campers assures them that Whistler Camp is a welcoming place, unlike most other conversion camps. Camper Jordan is quickly put at ease by Owen's reasonable solution to the gender-split cabin issue but then becomes suspicious of the camp's relaxed atmosphere. Their fears turn out to be founded when an evil presence begins to make itself known at the camp, becoming more dangerous the more the campers let down their guard.

Logan, who also penned and produced the film, spends a great deal of time introducing the campers, their diverse backgrounds, and their relationships. Kim and Stu are from affluent homes and are unwilling to leave the closet. Alexandra is in danger of being cut off by her family unless she finishes camp, while Toby gets a free trip in exchange for staying there. Veronica needs to grapple with her bisexuality, while Gabriel wants to feel accepted after years of being bullied.

Jordan is the clear protagonist, whose smarts and survival instincts make them the slasher movie type who always lives until the end. In the background are a bunch of faceless extras who don't get much characterization or dialogue. Having such a large cast may be due to wanting to create contrast with the low body count. Logan spends considerable time developing his leading group of characters, and the slashing becomes more of an afterthought. It makes sense not to kill them all off; these kids have had enough heartache and don't need to be unceremoniously dispatched. Logan bides his time and doles out punishment to those that deserve it.

The change from benevolent to unhinged is too sudden and doesn't make sense. Particular reveals are confusing and underdeveloped. Whistler Camp is only a week-long, but the various activities, budding relationships, therapy sessions, and psychological acts inflicted upon characters confuse the sense of time and pacing. When the masked killer finally decides to begin their slaughter, it feels as if a long summer is winding down after months. The fact that Logan clearly delineates the lines between good and evil means that the killer's mask is unnecessary; despite a large number of characters, the list of suspects is relatively tiny.

Worth Watching? 

They/Them is a psychological horror movie that relies on character-driven tension. Logan creates suspense through intense conversations, brutal interactions, and occasional torment. Germaine is competent and likable as the leader, and the other campers are also pleasant. Bacon is particularly noteworthy among the adults; his Owen can instantly be charming or threatening. He's the most fleshed-out character, and that helps. They can't subvert the slasher genre, though. Logan attempts to tell too much story with too many characters in a limited time. While this can hurt the horror element, the result is still some likable characters you cannot help but root for.

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