Spoiler Alert and Content Warning: This article will discuss the plot of the horror They/Them. This article also contains mentions of violence.
They/Them is a horror slasher film written and directed by John Logan. It features Theo Germaine, Kevin Bacon, and Carrie Preston in the lead roles. It was released in 2022.
At the start of the movie, Kevin Bacon’s Owen Whistler pretends to reimagine the idea of a conversion therapy camp. He claims that he is ‘okay with gay people’ and that this is a ‘safe place for everyone’. However, throughout the film, the characters are forced to adhere to social gender norms. Half of them bake a pie and the other half are forced to go hunting – how very gendered and binary.
The problems in They/Them do not end there. Trans girl Alexandra is forced to sleep in the boy’s bedroom although she identifies as a woman. She is also constantly misgendered by Whistler. After some digging, non-binary protagonist Jordan Lewis discovers that the camp has a history of torturing and killing LGBTQ+ people who previously attended the conversion therapy camp. This serves as the turning point of the film.
Horror and politics in They/Them
They/Them balances politics and horror in a way that makes the viewer almost cheer on the killer as they kill off every transphobic staff member and counsellor at the camp. It becomes a sort of queer and trans empowering slasher film. Nevertheless, John Logan is also able to create a strong sense of empathy for all the victims of conversion therapy. In a heart-warming scene, one of the protagonists opens up about their struggles being a trans and non-binary person:
“I’ve been fighting to be me for so long. I’m tired of fighting. I just wanna be.”
As these words are spoken, their friend, the only other trans person at the camp, starts singing Pink’s Perfect. Soon enough everyone else joins in while the song starts playing in the background. All the main characters of They/Them, including the initially reluctant gay jock, embrace their queerness and transness in a moment of joy and naivety to the current situation. The audience is able to view a community which has been marginalised for too long trying to find beauty and a sense of togetherness in a world which ostracises them for who they are.
While it lacks in horror, They/Them persists in addressing queer and trans issues respectfully, foregrounding a wider message of acceptance and empowerment throughout. The message of the film is evident: it is not a choice to be LGBTQ+. Your gender identity and sexuality are valid and nobody else should have the right to tell you who you are.
End conversion therapy for all!
The true horrors of They/Them are not the killings but the twisted and harmful practices of conversion therapy which the movie very clearly portrays as inherently wrong. No matter how many times Kevin Bacon’s antagonist tries to justify or misdirect the intentions of the camp, one thing is clear: all conversion therapy practices need to be banned.