Setting realistic, relatable messages and characters of the modern day against genuinely entertaining and frightening visual tropes is one of the leading ways for filmmakers to create a unique entry in the horror genre. Three-time Academy Award nominated scribe, John Logan did just that when he wrote and made his feature directorial debut on the upcoming LGBTQ+ slasher movie, They/Them.
The drama was produced by Jason Blum through his production company, Blumhouse Productions. Much like several of the company’s previous hit horror films as Sinister and The Purge, They/Them thrives in being set almost entirely in one ominous location that supports the characters’ development as they fight back against their biggest emotional – and physical – demons.
The movie features an ensemble cast that’s led by Kevin Bacon, who also served as an executive producer. They/Them reunites the actor-producer with Blum after they previously worked together on the 2020 Blumhouse Productions psychological horror film, You Should Have Left. The actor also returned to the slasher subgenre after he had his breakout role as a camper in the original Friday the 13th.
Besides Bacon, They/Them also stars Anna Chlumsky and Carrie Preston. The drama also features a young, diverse and authentically cast group of LGBTQIA+ actors, including Theo Germaine, Quei Tann, Austin Crute, Monique Kim, Anna Lore, Cooper Koch, and Darwin Del Fabro.
They/Them follows a group of LGBTQ+ teenagers as they arrive at Whistler Camp, a conversion camp run by Owen Whistler (Bacon) in the woods. The camp’s remote location allows Owen and his counselors to promised the teens a new sense of freedom by the end of the week, particularly in making decisions about their sexual and gender identities.
But as the counselors attempt to psychologically break down each of the campers, a mysterious killer starts claiming victims. As a result, the new group of friends must reclaim their power if they’re going to survive the emotional – and physical – horrors of the camp.
As a lifelong horror fan, Logan had been developing the idea for the movie in his mind for many years, as he wanted to share his own personal experiences as a gay young man. One horror trope the filmmaker did want to avoid in They/Them, and successfully did so, was make the queer characters either jokes or easy victims.
Instead, the teens weren’t afraid to stand up for themselves against Owen and the other counselors. They learned to band together to proudly embrace who they are and triumph over the physical and psychological evil they faced while attending the camp.
In an effort to reflect the modern language and politics of gender identity and sexual preference for kids, teens and young adults in contemporary America in They/Them, Logan worked with Scott Schofield, a senior consultant at GLAAD. He worked as an executive producer from the beginning of the drama’s production in order to help ensure that the creative team was honoring the LGBTQ community in the way that the script intended.
Germaine, who portrays trans and non-binary camper, Jordan, embraced working with Schofield on They/Them. The performer, who’s also non-binary in real life, has noted that the producer made everybody feel seen, safe and supported on the film’s set. That commitment helped Germaine in their commitment to their portrayal of Jordan.
The character ultimately becomes a leader to the other campers, as they’re an intense person who’s very driven to not only protect themself, but also others like them. Germaine shows that their character, who grew up in a very strictly gendered home, is determined to not only become emancipated from the family that didn’t accept them, but also protect others like them, particularly the new friends they made at Whistler Camp.
Not only does Germaine give a powerful, breakout movie performance in They/Them, the project also thrives on its visual aesthetic. The drama’s production took place at two camps in rural Georgia, which production designer CeCe DeStefano made to appear initially idyllic.
However, Whistler Camp’s seemingly picturesque nature in the exterior of its cabins and lakes proves to be deceptive. DeStefano and her crew put up subtly harrowing set dressings in the existing structures that reflect Whistler Camp’s true history, which create an underlying sense of dread and unease throughout the story.
With They/Them, Logan effortlessly crafted a much needed entry in the slasher horror subgenre that honestly explores the physical and emotional challenges young LGBTQ+ members still face in modern society. From brave protagonists led by the fearless direction of Jordan, who’s memorably played by Germaine, to authentically daunting visual aesthetics, notably DeStefano’s expert production design, the film engagingly emphasizes the importance of self love in any circumstance.
They/Them will begin streaming on Peacock this Friday, August 5.
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Here’s the trailer of the film.