They/Them Review: A Fright Free Slasher That Completely Misses The Mark

Welcome to Whistler Camp, whose motto is to "Respect, Renew, Rejoice." It's located in a quiet forest, and a group of queer teenagers has arrived. This isn't your typical summer camp — in fact, it's a conversion therapy camp, designed to force LGBT+ people to live inauthentic, miserable lives. "Gay people are a-ok with me," promises Camp director Owen Whistler (Kevin Bacon), offering a different approach to the relentless cruelty normally found in conversion therapy — or is it simply a way to disarm the teens for what's to come?

"They/Them," written and directed by John Logan, is the latest Blumhouse slasher coming straight to streaming via Peacock. It's a film about identity and the struggles of identifying as your authentic self when everything in the world is seemingly against you, mixed with a killer on the loose to turn "They/Them" into what should be a boldly LGBT+ slasher film. Instead, it's woefully lacking an identity, using cliches at every possible opportunity to undo any goodwill a film like this should be capable of.

A brutally dull slasher

One of the most frustrating parts of "They/Them" is that a slasher movie is nothing without exciting kills and interesting characters, and the film has precisely neither of these crucial elements. Every kill is brief, unimpactful, and unimaginative, and each feels more purposeless and rushed than the one before. There are also remarkably few kills, and they're so spaced out it's like the people responsible forgot they were even making a horror movie.

Then there are the characters, who feel miscast at best and totally vacant at worst. Kevin Bacon's camp leader is played too gently and naively to be considered any sort of credible threat, which makes the whole terror of conversion therapy a great deal less effective. The group of kids, all played by actual LGBT+ actors (which is probably the only refreshing element of the entire film) are so limited in motivations that they feel more like a clip show of generic queer stereotypes rather than anything resembling a human being. It's a strange cocktail of clichéd characters, wooden acting, and an eventless script that makes for deeply unrewarding viewing.

The closest we really get to see these teens band together and get any sense of who they really are comes in the gang uniting in a musical performance of ... Pink's "F***ing Perfect." It's a bizarre choice of song, but it's also a lazy one — who in their right minds would believe a group of teens in 2022 know every lyric to a Pink song from 2010? If they were in their thirties, I could stretch the realms of believability for it to make sense, but choosing a song that none of the people in the film would realistically know, let alone have ever heard, speaks to the film's overwhelming laziness that stops it from ever reaching its potential, and keeps it positively dreadful throughout.

They/Them is a misjudged mess

This is such an alarming misfire that the only reason "They/Them" seems to exist must be that some executive found it to be some sort of revolutionary Queer experience. In fairness, I suppose if you have no knowledge of the horror genre, or are incapable of doing even a cursory google search, you may feel as if "They/Them" is indeed the first of its kind. To believe anything of the sort is to ignore the reality of Horror as a genre, which, at its core, has always been about the outsider, or the other. Admittedly, trans people have often bared the brunt of negative representation in horror, but "They/Them" doesn't do them any favors either, reducing its trans, non-binary characters to paper-thin caricatures with no personalities beyond their identities.

Queer people have long identified with horror, whether through coded or explicit experiences: Queer horror, and specifically slashers, have been around for a long, long, time. It doesn't help that the movie isn't even remotely frightening, and in fact, pretty much any drama about conversion camps is infinitely scarier, including "The Miseducation of Cameron Post" and "Boy Erased," neither of which would claim to be thrillers by any means.

There's just so much ineptitude running (or rather, leisurely walking) through "They/Them" — from a lack of fright, not a single interesting character, wooden performances, and no discernable plot — that one would assume this project came from a first-time writer-director. While this is the directorial debut of John Logan, he's actually a very experienced screenwriter — not only that but he's written some genuinely excellent movies. "Gladiator," "Hugo," and "Sweeney Todd," amongst many others, were scribed by Logan, which makes "They/Them" all the more baffling.

It really does feel as if the only idea behind the film was that conversion therapy camps are bad and that it's not easy being LGBT+ in society. Neither of those things is false, but they are ideas that have been dealt with in a myriad of better ways before. "They/Them" may be extremely forgettable, but I'll be thinking about how on earth this movie ever got made for a long, long time.

/Film Rating: 2 out of 10