‘They/Them’ preview: John Logan’s directorial debut highlights the risks of combining horror and social commentary



CNN

No stranger to horror movies social commentary, or a desire to vent how they use violence. Yet the latest example of these impulses, “they/them,” illustrates how tricky the proposition is, without becoming particularly tense or scary in a story that feels creepy, exploitative, and didactic at various times.

The fact that the film debuted on NBC’s streaming service Peacock shows that no one sees the finished product as a major commercial draw. But it’s worth admitting that it represents a sort of horror movie that seems to want a piece of the pie.

The premise is that a group of teens are sent to a gay conversion therapy camp, a classic no-escape setting in a secluded place with no cell phone signal.

Kevin Bacon, who added a few more degrees to his resume, played the camp boss, greeting the newcomers comfortingly after they passed a sign that read “Respect”: “I can’t get you straight.” renew. rejoice. ”

Still, this is a horror movie, so the cheerful welcome quickly gives way to a less friendly interaction. Despite the unexpected turnaround of victims, there is still a problem of psychological abuse of vulnerable teens, whose de facto leader Jordan (“The Work in Progress” Theo German) is both immediately suspicious and, when needed, steely and resourceful.

A number of films over the years have dealt with the gay transformation phenomenon, from the 1999 hit “But I’m a Cheerleader” to 2018’s starring Lucas Hedges and featuring Joel Edgerton as the manipulator. Leader of the fact-based TV series “The Boys Erased”.

However, those films didn’t try to cater to the specific needs of horror audiences like “they/them”, including promos that emphasized “/” (think slashes) in the title. Not even provocative moments and speeches about self-acceptance can overcome the feeling that this serious and timely issue is being used as a means to wrinkle the formula for at-risk teens again.

As mentioned before, terror has shown the ability to navigate these waters, and “Going out” success In melding horror, comedy and race, studios are sure to be encouraged to pursue these themes.

“They/Them” is produced by Blumhouse, who participated in the production of “Going Out.”Still, the company is not far behind “hunt,” A dark satire about wealthy elites who hunt red-state residents for sports is mired in controversy for some of the same reasons — by tackling the complex subject, America’s toxic political divide, in a way that might despise it The way.

There’s a fine line between provocation and empowerment — and according to news reports, that’s what writer-director John Logan (a veteran of “Dreadful Penny” and writing James Bond films) wants the message to be perceived way – and close to tone deaf.

Fred Topel of UPI browses “them/them” reviews Identify this inner tensionwrote, “As an out gay filmmaker, Logan may have sincere words about both ant-LGBTQ strategy and the horror genre. Unfortunately, combining them ends up ruining both sides of the story.”

In a crowded media world, anything that sparks a conversation can be seen as a victory; after all, the space isn’t often full of direct commentary on Peacock films.

However, unlike the above signs in the movie, “their/them” lessons are mostly cautionary, like “reflection.” reconsider. Revised. ”

“They/Them” premieres on August 5th in Peacock.

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