‘They/Them’ – Scare-Free Horror Triples Down on Woke

Conversion therapy shocker brims with lectures, amateur-hour narratives

There’s an exciting horror film trapped beneath “They/Them,” but everyone involved refused to let it out.

Horror remains the best platform to entertain while sending a message. It’s not a slam-dunk formula, though. Too many filmmakers focus so hard on the latter they forget they’re making a genre film.

Think “Antebellum” and the new “Candyman” for Exhibits A and B.

“They/Them” counts as Exhibits C, D, E and F. Maybe G-Z, too.

They/Them | Official Trailer | Peacock Original

Kevin Bacon gives it his all as Owen Whistler, the head of a gay conversion camp. Except Owen’s heart doesn’t seem to be in it from the jump. His opening scene welcoming the gay, bisexual and trans campers is like something out of a GLAAD pamphlet.

He speaks of love, acceptance and safe spaces. No hate, fear or anger. Sounds like he’s lousy at his job, right? If you’re an intolerant parent looking to convert your gay child, the  camp’s Yelp reviews alone would keep you away.

Then again, nothing in this amateurish production makes much sense.

Maybe we’ll see Owen slowly rescind those wonderful promises. Instead, the slapdash story can’t settle on a tone, let alone a character arc for poor Bacon. Did he lose a bet and find himself stuck in this Peacock original?


One early sequence attempts to build a sense of dread. All we get are a few images of ventriloquist dummies, the laziest attempt to strike up some atmosphere.

Audiences may need Post-It notes on their screens to remind them it’s a horror movie.

Add clunky romances, endless dialogue that would make a Hallmark movie scribe cringe and an embarrassing dearth of scares and you’ve got a missed opportunity on an epic scale.


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“They/Them” even stops cold mid-film for not one but two seduction scenes back to back. Can someone remind writer/director John Logan he’s making a horror film? It seems he forgot.

Horror movies often employ the “slow burn” technique, building up characters and scenarios to prepare us for the thrills ahead. “They/Them” takes forever to even approach a scare sequence, but that time is spent with bland empowerment speeches and predictable revelations.

  • This is my truth!
  • I want to live my authentic life!
  • Intolerant counselors have their own gay urges!

Poor Anna Chlumsky of “Veep” fame. Her role makes so little sense it’s like she wandered on set without so much as a script outline to guide her way.

It’s hard to pick one sequence as the film’s nadir, but the film’s sing-a-long merits strong consideration.

The craziest part of “They/Them” is the talent behind the scenes. Logan penned “Skyfall,” arguably the best Bond film in a decade. He’s also the screenwriter behind the cruelly underrated “Rango” and “The Last Samurai” with three Oscar nominations to his credit.

So why does his screenplay read like an LGBTQ chat room forum?

Logan is the furthest thing from a Hollywood hack, but you can’t tell it from his directorial debut. He shows zero instincts as a horror auteur. It’s as if the genre in question never crossed his mind.

His characters may be refreshingly distinct for a horror film, but they lack an inner life. Their sexuality defines them, and the film doesn’t allow enough quiet moments to make them relatable, let alone entertaining.

Their collective pain is palpable, and the young cast does an admirable job of showing their alienation. It’s the best part of the movie, but it’s dwarfed by the film’s flaws.

They/Them | Kevin Bacon and the Cast Talk Representation, Horror, and Authenticity


There’s a mystery behind the slasher stalking the camp, but the film can’t even hide the reveal long enough to make it count.

We’re left with a thriller that deserves its rightful place in the year’s “Worst Of” list.

HiT or Miss: “They/Them” is woke to its core, but that isn’t its fatal flaw. It’s cartoonish, scare-free and so intent on empowerment it skimps on every horror movie essential.


  1. Reading ( the very honest) review is ENOUGH for me. Figured it was going to be pure preaching or everything BUT horror. Again, networks ( especially Peacock ) have every opportunity and specific genres to unravel their messages, why trample on a potentially great angle with this one and wasting Bacons talent in process?

  2. Your review makes me more curious to watch. I’m always willing to give so-called “woke“ movies more leeway because of the “bury it” knee-jerk response some watchers are unable to resist. Some of those watchers will hyperfixate on small flaws as a pretense to throw the whole thing out. I’m not necessarily saying as what you’re doing, your review seems fair, but politically charged content does strange things to our brains.

    The remake of Candyman I think it’s a perfect example. There was a lot of hand-wringing and trepidation about the political themes, but I would have to maybe question the intentions of someone who claims to be a fan of traditional horror who called it unwatchable or flat out bad. It’s OK to not agree with the political message of a movie, but the political message doesn’t render classic horror devices that have thrilled for decades suddenly absent from the movie.

    I did like how you mentioned there were a few truly, traditionally scary moments in the movie. There’s a handful of movies I can think of where that works, but that does raise the stakes. The whole environment needs to be at least mildly creepy from beginning to end in that case.

    We will see if I make it through. Thanks for doing a thorough one.

    1. Tho I agree with what you wrote.. why do directors/ producers feel the need to interject ( their?) message in it as well. Keep it to the GENRE! You dont have to mix everything! People love lasagna. People like vegetables. But don’t mix them together please!!

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