- David Zak
Be wary of THEY/THEM.
THEY/THEM, written and directed by award winner John Logan, strives to be a horror film that illustrates LGBTQIA+ empowerment. The result is an odd stew, worth watching for the cast of young performers who hopefully have better material to work with in future projects.
The first five minutes are the scariest, as a woman driving alone through the dark woods meets her untimely end. Even though you anticipate what is coming, Logan plays his cards nicely in this sequence.
The focus starts to wander when a dozen kids arrive at Whistler Camp, where the kindly counseling team - led by the consistently effective Kevin Bacon - instructs the campers to head to either the men's or women's cottage. What about trans or non-binary teens?
In quick succession, we meet some campers at group counseling or individual therapy. The scenes in which the young adults develop friendships and alliances are brief, leaving us to know them mostly by their fashion choices. There are standard horror bits - spying on naked teens in the shower, leaving them handcuffed in the woods, teaching some to bake while others learn to shoot. While none of that is surprising or frightening. I did not expect the graphic sexual encounters and the erotic nature of torture scenes.
We get to know seven of the team - Cooper Koch, Monique Kim, Austin Crute, Anna Lore, Quei Tann, Theo Germaine, and Darwin del Fabro.
Cooper Koch is the studly jock afraid of what his fellow athletes might say. Anna Lore is a woman fearful of all intimacy, much less lesbianism. Monique Kim represents the bisexuals, while Darwin del Fabro and Austin Crute are trans. As we watch them find their way and sometimes fall in love with someone unexpected, I found myself hoping that all of these talented performers find projects which give them more to do.
Only Theo Germaine - excellent on Work in Progress - has a chance to play a fully developed character, and they handle it beautifully.
Will you be surprised that Zane, the athletic coach (Boone Platt), and his girlfriend each have a secret? Will the Rhino head hung at waist height serve a purpose?
While Logan may have the best intentions, I found some of the screenplay shocking, and I worry that it may show up on Fox TV or in some anti-gay political ads. Bacon verbally shredding a black trans kid is disgusting. And in Germaine's solo counseling session, they are told what every trans person dreads.
Because of these two triggering scenes, I would caution with whom you share the film. The trailer below contains all the best bits.
THEY/THEM is on Peacock.