Director/Writer: John Logan
Starring: Kevin Bacon, Theo Germaine, Anna Chlumsky
They/Them just came out and I've been pretty keen to see it since I first heard about it. First up it's just cool to have a movie that's not the standard group of mostly white straight kids doing dumb shit and dying. I didn't know anything about They/Them but knowing it's a film about LGBTQ+ kids going to conversion therapy I was expecting some pretty shitty things to happen to them and was kind of surprised in the direction the film went in.
At first I wondered if I'm entitled to have an opinion on They/Them - a film about LGBTQ+ youths being sent to a conversion therapy camp - then I decided fuck it, yes I am. Firstly I love horror and this is a horror movie. Secondly, there are days where I'm not even sure where my sexuality fits in the world and I'll wonder "am I asexual or are men just crap?" or "am I asexual or is it the depression?". Either way, I have zero interest and the few times I have it's been with someone I had known for a long time before anything happened. Anyone who identifies as asexual or demisexual have all faced the same issue where we're not "queer" enough for the LGBT crowd but we're not "straight" enough for everyone else. Thankfully decent friends don't give a shit either way (I'm also not interested in being labelled) but I did have a friend who felt the need to tell me her sexcapades one night and then seemed to be personally offended when I wasn't offering any stories back and told her I don't have any interest in sex. She told me "you're just inexperienced". Experience really has nothing to do with having a sex drive or not. You have one, or you don't. It's reverse slut shaming. Anyways, I decided I'd write about the film...
The film opens with a woman travelling alone at night listening to some creepy podcast about dead bodies in the woods and just as she's decided nope and turns it off, her tyres blow out. Stranded on the side of the road with no phone service she notices tyre spikes laying on the road and heads back to her car but not before hearing rustling in the woods. It's just a big ass Stag but right behind her is the killer. The stag runs off, the woman gets into her car and realises someone is behind the car with a hatchet. Needless to say, she dies.
Next day, a bus with a group of teenagers arrives at Whistlers Camp for conversion therapy. Camp leader Owen Whistler makes an entrance and starts his speech with "I can't make you straight, I don't want to make you straight"(so why are they here?!) and continues on about how there's nothing wrong with being gay and basically sounding like he's a really cool guy and introduces the team: his wife Cora, nurse Molly, Zane the athletics instructor and former conversion therapy kid and Zane's fiance Sarah. Everyone has to hand over their phones, computers and medications and he concludes with there being a boys and girls cabin and for everyone to get settled in. As everyone separates to head to their designated cabins, Jordan stands still and announces their pronouns are "They" and where should they be sleeping? There's no communal sleeping arrangements and if this is a camp to deter people from being gay, wouldn't that be a smart idea?
Their first activity is a group therapy session where everyone discusses why they are at conversion therapy and we see a mix of kids who are 100% comfortable with who they are and the ones who aren't. Toby made a deal with his parents that if he spent a week here, in exchange he gets to see Moulin Rouge in New York. Kim wants to be straight and give her parents grandkids just like her sister. Alexandra has no desire to change and loves the ladies. Stu is a swimmer and likely to get a scholarship but doesn't want to be gay. Lastly, Jordan made a deal with their super religious family that if they spend a week here they can legally get emancipated from their family.
The following day we find out how unchill Owen Whistler really is when it's discovered Alexandra is also trans and is sent to stay in the boys cabin for allegedly lying about it. Owen leaves telling them to dress appropriately which distresses Alexandra who only has girls clothes. The boys lend her some things but we see Jordan's brain ticking over and as they all line up outside for the days activities we see Jordan wearing Alexandra's dress just to make a point.
The activities themselves are kind of odd. Like how does making a friendship bracelet stop you from being gay? The boys are taken outdoors where nothing says toxic masculinity faster than shooting guns and the girls are sent off to bake a pie because that's what straight women do. In the 1950's maybe. I gotta tell you, I don't step into the kitchen if I don't have too. I'm even super lazy making toasties now. I use the actual toaster and then the microwave just so I don't have to use a frying pan because then I'd have to wash it.
About an hour into the film you've forgotten you even turned a horror movie on because there's been a Pink sing-a-long and the only creep factor is Zane who is giving off repressed-gay-man-serial-killer vibes. And maybe Cora. She got her therapist degree out of a weeties box. She reminded me of my stepdad really. His idea of an intervention (I was so depressed I was crying all the time, wanted to die and somewhat agoraphobic) was to sit me down and scream abuse at me. I'm not a therapist but I'm pretty sure telling someone how much of a loser they are isn't the way to fix them.
Things start to take a turn in the film when Stu hooks up with Gabriel and Owen and Zane arrive to do some serious therapy...that involves a slideshow and electrocution. Soon after, one by one the camp counsellors are being bumped off.
It's a decent film but I had the killer picked within minutes and I'd completely forgotten about the opening scene by the time anything finally started happening. A few death glares and a shitty psych session don't even qualify this to be a psychological horror.
Theo Germaine was great as Jordan. This was a character who knew who they were, had compassion for others and wasn't going to take shit from anybody. Alexandra as a character bugged me, whether intentional or not the way they'd say "hunny" felt so condescending but to be fair I do feel that way about literally any person who says that. Lastly, the character Gabriel kinda creeped me out and I feel horrible saying this but I did think of Angela from Sleepaway Camp. While clearly a man, Gabriel has a very feminine face so maybe that was on purpose? We've got Kevin Bacon reliving his camp counsellor days and Kim mentions Jason Voorhees in one scene. Nothing is more 80's than a kids camp by a lake.
Overall I think the movie could have been a lot cooler if there had been some dark undertones to at least build up some tension throughout the film before the big ending but I did think the killer's mask was really cool.