Editor's note: this review contains spoilers for Peacock's original horror film They/Them.
Peacock and Blumhouse's They/Them (pronounced "They Slash Them") is a decent slasher with a great cast -- but it falls apart in its third act when it starts to moralize what type of revenge queer and trans people should get on their tormentors.
Written and directed by Oscar-nominated screenwriter John Logan (Gladiator, The Aviator), They/Them has my favorite title of any horror movie in the last decade and starts with a great premise. The movie follows Jordan, a nonbinary teen played by Theo Germaine, and a group of other queer and trans teens as they are sent by their parents to a conversion therapy camp in the woods. There, they meet the suspiciously nice camp staff, only to soon see both the horrors of conversion therapy and that the camp is being stalked by a masked killer.
The movie does have a great cast, including several horror veterans like Keven Bacon as the camp leader, Anna Chlumsky as the nurse, and Carrie Preston as the terrifyingly homophobic therapist, and lots of great young talent including Germaine, Quei Tann, Austin Crute, Anna Lore, Monique Kim, and Cooper Koch, but unfortunately it's held down by a heavy-handed and misguided script.
For a while, I was convinced that Germaine's lead character would turn out to be the killer in a twist. I thought that they would be slashing them. Unfortunately, when the real killer (Chlumsky's nurse Molly, who reveals herself to be a former victim of the camp) invites Jordan to join her in getting revenge, Jordan refuses.
When Molly tells them they're strong enough to kill the man who has been torturing them and their friends throughout the whole movie, Jordan has to say the clunky piece of dialogue, "no, I'm strong enough not to" and explains that her telling them to get revenge is just as bad as the camp telling them to become cis and straight.
Why do we have to be the good guys and take the high road, even in horror, a genre about exploring the depths of emotions and human depravity? With a playful name like They/Them, I thought we would get a film that empowers the community and gets to revel in the strength and power that is being queer and trans. Instead, it's about being polite.
This was a horror movie, a slasher movie, and an LGBTQ+ movie, but in the end, it wasn't scary enough, sexy enough, or dark enough. We want a true queer horror film, one in which queer people get to revel in the tropes and themes of horror, and that includes becoming murderers, getting revenge, and committing acts of violence.
We want a high quality horror movie written by an Oscar nominee and starring a great cast, and we got that. But we also want it to have a great message, and to celebrate the things that make a horror movie horror. Things like charismatic villains, bloody kills, revenge, and outsiders finding their strength.
Germaine is great in a horror role and I'd really love to see them get the opportunity to play a true slasher villain, or even just the opportunity to be in a bloodier horror movie.
They/Them is a decent attempt at queer horror, and I really loved the scenes showing the horror of conversion therapy. But in the end, it can't help undermining itself with an underwhelming third act and a lesson about forgiving our tormentors.
They/Them is streaming on Peacock now.
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