Sometimes a movie has everything going for it: a wonderful cast, a top-notch writer behind it, some great ideas, and a premise that is literally to die for. Sometimes, despite all of that, the film fails to find its roots and ground its premises anyway. they they, from writer/director John Logan, is unfortunately one of those. It has everything going for it, but a few thematic, plot, and structural issues hamper what could have been an era-defining slasher.
In they theythe feature film directorial debut of John Logan (author of several films, including Gladiator, The Aviator, and much more), a group of LGBTQ youth arrive at a gay conversion camp, run by Owen Whistler (Kevin Bacon). Campers Jordan (Theo Germaine), Alexandra (Quei Tann), and more battle their way through the camp’s increasingly threatening atmosphere, and that’s before a mysterious assassin begins hacking into various camp residents.
Several of the performances in they they It really works. Theo Germaine is excellent as the complex central protagonist, landing toughness and vulnerability to a considerable extent. Quey Tann’s Alexandra adds a lot of heart to the film, while Austin Crute’s Toby is charming with great comedic timing. The nefarious camp counselors also give strong and menacing performances with Kevin Bacon taking a largely successful multi-layered approach to his demented character as Owen Whistler.
The script, by the seasoned veteran John Logan, has a series of virtues in its dialogues. The dialogue from many characters really works, providing humor or emotion when needed. It’s clearly a well-intentioned movie that centers the LGBTQ heroes in the context of the real villains, and the laser focus here produces quite a few emotional or celebratory scenes that work, and they work quite well.
However, there are problems that undermine some of this considerable potential in unintended ways. For all its self-empowering and community-empowering virtues, the film remains a bit messy thematically. It’s hard to be too precise here without revealing too much, but here goes. A central theme here is that we LGBTQ people have the right to determine our own destinies, lives, and happiness; no one else has the right to tell us what to do and who we can be. So far so good. In the end, however, we discover that a character with a conversion camp history is going to extreme measures out of a kind of revenge for his own history, coupled with a protective dream that no one else has to face that fate.
It’s pretty clear from the context that we’re supposed to encourage that character through such extreme measures, but one of the leads refuses to join them (don’t tell me how to live my life!) and turns them in. It’s an amazingly milquetoast twist that undermines the actions we were supposed to animate, even though they happened to really bad and scary villains. Also, why are we supposed to stand up for LGBTQ people who choose their own path when this truly wronged character HAD chosen his own path, a path forged by absolute terrors, but are suddenly supposed to deny his personal vendetta? I’m not saying every deep, evil movie should end with “infinite revenge” per se, but it’s a thematic twist that undermines what THIS movie had been building up to in some pretty weird ways, all in an effort to be safe.
There are also character changes that don’t make sense motivationally (one particular heel turn literally doesn’t have any reason that makes any sort of sense) and a musical number that turns into an entire music video that switches from celebratory to cheesy depending on who Question. . Of course, John Logan is a spectacular scribe, but some of these choices need refinement in both concept and execution.
Finally, for a mystery slasher, the rhythm is everywhere, and with it, the emotion. Very little “horror-style” activity happens during the first half of the movie, then something starts to happen, then a lot more nothing before all hell breaks loose, but it’s too quick and too easy to build up the tension that’s so often felt. needs to. . Once things start happening, it’s easy to predict what’s going to happen next with some accuracy too… a few red herrings and a bit of obfuscation would really help here. Keep the audience guessing, and those moments would have really ratcheted up the scares.
they they it may be one of the smartest horror titles in years (they’re pronouns but they actually cut ’em, get it?), but unfortunately it’s not one of the best horror titles in years. It boasts some wonderfully written scenes with several very talented actors, but thematic issues, some major plot and structure issues, and an ending that is inexplicably bad undermine what is otherwise a promising film with a much-needed premise. It’s a shame.
they they is available in peacock.