A campy good time at a bad camp.
“They/Them,” starring Kevin Bacon and produced by Jason Blum, is a horror movie with a LGBTQIA+ theme and a campy attitude. It’s the directorial debut of John Logan, who also wrote it. His previous screen credits include “The Aviator,” “Rango,” “Skyfall,” and “Hugo.” His debut is far from original, but it does feature characters worth liking and hating. Read this review, and you’ll know how I’m clarifying.
Whistler Camp is a gay conversion camp, run by the seemingly nice counselor Owen Whistler (Bacon). We can easily tell by the trailer and poster that he’s a bad guy, but the actor still does a good, professional job at playing such a creep, especially since he played a sadist guard in “Sleepers.” His screenplay is far from original, but its message about gay people proving to themselves they are who they are is inspiring. It’s more outspoken about the hatred than it is scary.
Here are the LGBTQIA+ campers, who are staying for a week.
- Jordan (Theo Germaine) is only doing this so he can legally emancipate himself as part of a deal with his religious parents. Like the actor, he uses they/them pronouns.
- Toby (Austin Crute from “Booksmart”) is only doing this so he can see “Moulin Rogue” in NYC as part of a deal with his parents.
- Veronica (Monique Kim) hates being a bisexual.
- Kim (Anna Lore) tries really, really hard to be straight.
- Alexandra’s (Quei Tann) parents threaten to boot her out in the streets and keep her away from her younger brother.
- Gabriel (Darwin del Fabro) is tired of the homophobia against him.
- Stu (Cooper Koch) is a swimmer who wants to get into a good college.
They “want to fit in,” either because of their homophobic parents or maybe it’s because they’re self-loathing of themselves. At least, some of them stick by their interests.
As the week continues, the campers deal with various problems. Kim connects with Veronica. Jordan, Toby, and Alexandra know they’re in trouble with Owen pressuring them. Molly (Anna Chlumsky) is the only counselor, who knows this camp is evil. And being a typical horror movie, a masked killer is slaughtering people at night.
First off, John Logan, “Halloween,” “Scream,” and “Happy Death Day” all beat you to the punch on masked killers. So, there’s not much originality. But I guess this can be campy entertainment.
And second, I can’t spoil why there’s a masked killer, but it does set the point about how people of the LGBTQIA+ community don’t deserve to be thrown into these camps. The better movie of its kind would be “Boy Erased,” which was a drama, but still set the record straight on gay boys and their interests.
But, “They/Them” represents that on its own terms. It shows some sadistic counselors, who force them to shoot dying dogs and give them shock torture. And it also shows us these troubled campers, who are pressured by what society thinks of them. I may be a straight person, but I still believe in equality, so it was easy for me to support them. Kudos to these young actors-from Germaine to Lore-for expressing themselves sincerely and emotionally.
Don’t look at “They/Them” as a horror film, but rather for its strong gay characters.
Streaming on Peacock
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