It’s a great time to be a horror fan, as the genre has been enjoying a renaissance for about a decade. Many of the modern classics that have hit theaters over the years have come from Blumhouse Productions, including such hits as get out, The invisible Manand 2018 Halloween. The last of these great releases is that of John Logan They theywhich will be released as a Peacock exclusive.
Screenwriter John Logan makes his directorial debut with They they, which he also wrote and produced alongside Jason Blum. The new film is a horror film set in a gay conversion camp, which combines classic horror tropes with the Friday 13 with contemporary characters and scenarios. And to make the link with Jason Voorhees even stronger, original Friday 13 actor Kevin Bacon is both a star and a producer in They they.
Despite these similarities, the new slasher is an LGBTQ+-focused story that was never told that way. And while the atrocities of the Whistler camp “treatments” are terrifying enough, the horror escalates with a masked killer on the loose.
They/Them’s authentic cast of queer characters shines.
For some reason, the horror genre is one that the LGBTQ+ community is known to historically gravitate towards. And that’s part of why They they feels like such a triumph; it’s a film made by queer talent in front of and behind the camera. So queer audience members can literally see themselves on screen, rather than identifying with characters who aren’t explicitly LGBTQ+. The pain exerted by the locked-in characters is visceral and real, as is the sense of community that forms between the campers.
The politician Star Theo Germaine leads the group of young stars as non-binary protagonist Jordan. They help with the buoy They theylasting 90 minutes with a quintessential horror movie performance full of emotional highs and lows. Germaine has scenes with the entire cast, including the impressive cast of performers who play the camp adults – including Kevin Bacon as well as Carrie Preston and Anna Chlumsky.
Another star is Libraryis Austin Crute, who is They theyToby’s main source of comic relief. While those humorous beats are effective, Crute also rises to the occasion when his character is targeted by Whistler Camp’s methods. The young cast is rounded out with strong performances from Monique Kim, Anna Lore, Cooper Koch and Darwin del Fabro.
Whereas They they is indeed a horror film, the moments of levity used by John Logan stand out. Often this happens through dialogue and interpersonal interactions in the young cast. As their identities come under attack, the campers create a chosen family and are able to assert themselves throughout the duration of the film. Sometimes it’s with a sassy return from Austin Crute’s Toby, and sometimes it’s a full vocal to P!nk’s song “Fucking Perfect.”
Kevin Bacon and the advisors from They/Them delve deeper into the story with stunning performances.
Of course, no spooky camp would be complete without a group of adult counselors. They they delivers on that front with a number of familiar faces. Front and center is none other than the great Kevin Bacon, once again marking the horror genre with the movie Peacock. Bacon has been at the center of the slasher film’s marketing, and even beyond star power, it’s clear why, as his performance as Owen Whistler contains multitudes that make it delightfully unclear exactly where his loyalties lie.
true blood and The good wife actress Carrie Preston plays Cora, Owen’s wife, in They they, and delivers a performance that shows why she’s an Emmy winner. One particular scene with Theo Jermaine’s Jordan, as it sheds light on their identity, is a masterclass in mental warfare.
To finish, Veep and Invent Anna actress Anna Chlumsky plays Molly, who is Whistler’s camp staff nurse. A newcomer to the camp, Chlumsky offers a warm and hopeful juxtaposition to the way the staff otherwise humiliates young gay campers. Like her co-stars, the My daughter star elevates the material even further with his performance as part of a strong ensemble cast.
Although the ending may be predictable, They/Them is a celebration of queer culture and horror.
As with any slasher, the great mystery surrounding They they is exactly who the masked killer is running around Whistler Camp taking people away. I won’t spoil this identity, but you’ll probably find out for yourself before the reveal, because it’s kind of predictable. Either way, that doesn’t take away from the entertainment of the bloody events that John Logan’s horror film plays out.
This is partly due to a methodical quality in Logan’s approach. Every young actor has a moment to shine, showing a different side of the queer experience. And while the film features gory killings and murders, it also shows how violent words can be. When characters are deliberately miscast or a transgender character is referred to by their dead name, it elicits the same anxious feelings as a chase scene. And while it might have been somewhat painful or triggering for the LBGTQ+ cast, the performances are vibrant and it’s clear the creatives have done their homework with the subject matter.
Although there has been an exciting increase in queer visibility in horror films, They they is a love letter to both horror and the LGBTQ+ community. Queer characters are exciting and complex heroes that we root for and whose motivations and story are fully fleshed out. This helps raise the stakes of the action, while providing an emotionally satisfying conclusion. And while there may be plenty of queer theories and references throughout They they, it’s also an accessible and fun horror movie for audiences who may not be as immersed in the queer LGBTQ+ community. It’s a fun horror game that mixes emotion with laughter and screams.