I have been looking forward to this film since NBCUniversal announced it was doing a horror film about a Christian gay conversion Camp filled with actors who are all members of the LGBTQ community.
The synopsis of “They/Them” would make you believe this was a stone-cold lock to be one of the top 10 worst films of 2022. As much as NBCUniversal wants to pretend to be an ally of the LGBTQ community, they were smart enough to keep this film on a streaming service rather than put it in theaters and let it bomb for the whole world to see.
Despite the fact gay and trans people were allowed to play out their fantasy of taking out Christian therapy camps in the setting of a horror film, I didn’t hate this film, it’s a terrible movie but I didn’t hate it.
They/Them is a film set in a fictional gay conversion camp where numerous LGBTQ youth are set by their parents for various reasons to make them normal again. Kevin Bacon plays Owen Whistler, the camp leader who wants to help these kids find themselves rather than fix them. After a little bit of a bumpy road during the introductions, the campers settle into their cabins as they prepare for their 1-week conversion experience before returning home.
Things are going well for everyone until they realize that there’s something off about the way that the camp is presented. The counselors are a little too nice, which concerns some of the youth. The deeper they look into the camp’s history, the more they realize it or something sinister is going on. On top of that there is also a killer on the loose, but don’t worry because the film forgets that the Killer is in the movie about 5 minutes after introducing them.
Knowing that every person in the film is LGBTQ going in makes it hard to complain about the film being woke because the movie wears his heart on his sleeve in that respect. The film for the most part tones down any lectures about non-progressives when it easily could have gone the other way.
The characters avoid being obnoxious so even if their conflicts are melodramatic, you can embrace characters that are going through personal situations and who just want to have fun while being treated like normal people.
All of this is fine until you realize the fundamental problem with this movie. They/Them is a horror film, a horror movie that is devoid of any horror whatsoever. The problem here is the film does not want to kill any of the LGBTQ characters in the movie. Trying to avoid any labels of being homophobic or transphobic none of the campers are killed in this film which means the film has no tension.
The opening five minutes show us a killer in a mask hiding in the woods but the killer is removed from the film for the entire 1st and 2nd acts. By the time the killer returns in the 3rd act, they are only killing the camp counselors because every other person in this film is a member of a protected class according to progressive intersectional standards.
If this was a thriller rather than a horror movie, the film could have played off of the tension between the councilors and the youth and added a sense of uneasiness to the script. Instead, you are left with a film that loses its own identity not because it didn’t have the ability, but because progressive storytelling prevents them from marginalizing any of the characters in their own movie.
They/Them is almost a decent movie, but the filmmakers wrote themselves into a corner they couldn’t get out of. As much as people in this community don’t want to hear it, you cannot mix entertainment with politics and this film is a shining example of why you can’t have your cake and eat it too.