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Stream It Or Skip It: They/Them on Peacock, a Compelling Jumble of Slasher-Comedy and Earnest LGBTQ+ Drama

Make sure to pronounce it properly youve gotta say slash once you browse the title They/Them (now on Peacock). Clever, eh? That is an LGBTQ+ slasher flick that surely got greenlit after execs at Blumhouse, the utterly tireless churner-outer of horror movies, heard the next pitch: Imagine if Camp Crystal Lake was a gay conversion camp? The cherry at the top is Kevin Bacon, proud Friday the 13th alum, time for the genre that helped launch his career. Now lets learn if the ultimate product lives around its promise.

THEY/THEM: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?

The Gist: A female drives alone through the deep, dark woods during the night. Whump, smash, screech, no signal, rumble, groan, slow walking, slow slow walking, WHAP. That last one was the axeman, masked needless to say, ending her everything. Cut to: daytime. WHISTLER CAMP, reads an indicator. RESPECT RENEW REJOICE, reads an indicator beneath that sign. A busful of teens arrives. Theyre greeted by Owen Whistler (Bacon), a guy whose reassuring tones arent reassuring at all. Definately not it. It is a camp where shitheel parents send their kids so theyll get back not gay. Owen and his therapist wife Cora (Carrie Preston) run the area with several counselors and a nurse, Molly (Anna Chlumsky), whos new. And Groundskeeper Balthazar (Mark Ashworth) over there? Pay no mind to him and his creepy leering.

The youngsters look sad, uneasy, confused, angry or all the above wouldnt you? at the chance of the fing people straightening them out. We hang with those hateful pounds: Jordan (Theo Germaine) is non-binary, forced in which to stay the boys cabin. Alexandra (Quei Tann) is secretly trans and cant continue the ruse; shes also delivered to the boys cabin. Toby (Austin Crute) is really a flamboyant type who promised his parents hed head to camp if theyd let him go see Moulin Rouge on Broadway. Kim (Anna Lore) is really a rich suburbanite who cant bear to admit she likes girls, and Stu (Cooper Koch) is really a varsity-jacketed swimmer who cant bear to admit he likes boys. Veronica (Monique Kim) is covertly researching a college paper on gay conversion therapy. They powwow with counselors for group therapy and share their heartbreaking stories where they face disapproval and rejection.

Teenagers are always twisted up with regards to defining and understanding who they’re, however, many of individuals in this movie are a lot more knotted than usual. You sense their ache. And quickly enough, Owen the meanie and his cretinous staff reach work twisting these kids up so tight, they could never come undone that is a method of saying theyre sadistic, rather than above intense psychological and physical torture. Im sure the Geneva Convention has some protocol concerning this, snarks Veronica. But hey, think about the axe murderer, you might be asking. Yes, the axe murderer continues to be on the market, waiting to pounce, and pounce they’ll.

THEY/THEM STREAMING MOVIE
Photo: Everett Collection

What Movies DOES IT Remind You Of?: Friday the 13th, needless to say, if it had been crossed with Jason Blum-produced Netflix documentary Pray Away, concerning the gross abuses perpetrated by gay conversion outfit Exodus International. They/Them also half-asses the self-aware horror-movie commentary a la Scream and The Cabin in the Woods.

Performance Worth Watching: Germaine is rock-solid as our protagonist, giving shade and nuance to a slightly underwritten character who isnt at all ready to roll over and accept things because they are. Having said that, Preston nearly steals the movie with a diabolically evil speech that could turn Hannibal Lecter right into a puddle of goo.

Memorable Dialogue: Two exchanges that summarize this movies jarring tonal disparity:

Kim: I keep expecting Jason Voorhees ahead out of these woods.

Veronica: Who?

And:

Alexandra: This camp. Can you even have confidence in some of this?

Molly: I really believe in healing. Thats all.

Alexandra: Perhaps you should have confidence in dignity.

Sex and Skin: Butts, faces in crotches, underwear-on dry-humping, going-at-its in the shadows of the camps Mystery Cabin.

Our Take: They/Them barely just barely functions a lot more than it fails. Were talking alarmingly near a 51/49 ratio here. Writer/director John Logan (whose script credits include Rango, Hugo and Gladiator) will incur the wrath of horror-fanatic babies everywhere, who’ll decry the film for not being scary or gory enough, and perhaps thats true it often plays such as a Cuckoos Nest-ish rebellion drama with a cloaked homicidal maniac dropped in occasionally. Its earnest for an extended stretch, then its cheeky, then its frightening, less so for the in-goes-the-knife-out-goes-the-life stuff, more for the psycho Clockwork Orangeisms of Owen Whistlers therapeutic techniques.

Logan manages to carry everything together though, lumpy since it is. He wisely hones in on Germaines calm, steady presence, which anchors the movie on righteous ground, and allows Bacon and Preston to let rip in the films latter half. The somewhat typical comedy and horror fodder muddies the waters; chop it out, and the film my work quite nicely as an easy drama about teenagers coping with identity crises. The young cast is strong enough to earn our empathy even yet in relatively brief moments of character development, a lot more than could be said for slasher films, which so rarely inspire us to provide a fraction of a crap about their soon-to-be-dead teenagers.

Our Call: STREAM IT. Logan appears to shoehorn the horror conceit in to the story so he is able to cleverly subvert a genre expectation or two via the LGBTQ+ context, that is sufficient ambition to create They/Them worth a wrist watch.

John Serba is really a freelance writer and film critic located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read more of his just work at johnserbaatlarge.com.

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