The Reel Review
LGBTQ+ kids being psychologically terrorized at a sadistic gay conversion camp face even more horror after a serial killer starts killing its vile camp counselors, in this horror/thriller on Peacock, which stars Kevin Bacon, Carrie Preston (True Blood), Theo Germaine (The Politician) and Anna Chlumsky (Veep).
Accomplished screenwriter John Logan (Penny Dreadful, Skyfall, Spectre) assumes the director’s chair for the first time in this straight-to-streaming Blumhouse production that he also wrote. Featuring an inclusive ensemble cast of gay, transgender and non-binary characters, They/Them bills itself as a Friday the 13th slasher knockoff, while exploring some of the real-life horrors of bigotry and intolerance faced by LGBTQ+ kids at these revolting camps.
But using the sickening practice of controversial gay conversation therapy as the basis for a horror film is pretty risky business. Had Logan, himself gay, fully committed to making either a gleefully campy gay teen revenge horror or even totally serious, straight-up horror, it might have worked. Instead, he timidly vacillates between both, resulting in a confusing, jarring tonal mishmash of campiness and tired, limp horror. There also are some shockingly tone-deaf moments – campers breaking out into song all Glee-like after one is bullied by a counselor stands out as one particularly weird one. Meanwhile, the kills are shocking only in how boring and uninspired they are. They/Them is a terrible miss.
• They/Them was filmed at Hard Labor Creek State Park in Rutledge, Georgia, an hour east of Atlanta.
• Kevin Bacon’s film career started with 1978’s National Lampoon’s Animal House, followed by his appearance as one of the ill-fated camp counselors in 1980’s Friday the 13th.
• Jason Blum reportedly was inspired for the concept of They/Them after watching the 2021 Netflix documentary Pray Away, about the horrors of gay conversation camps.