“They/Them” proves to be an embarrassing mess

This supposed slasher failed as a queer empowerment story and just doesn’t cut

“They/Them” (pronounced “they slash them”) is the directorial debut of Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and Tony-winning playwright John Logan. The film stars Kevin Bacon (“Footloose”), Theo Germaine (“The Politician”), Anna Chlumsky (“Veep”), Carrie Preston (“True Blood”) and Austin Crute (“Booksmart”). The movie follows a group of LGBTQ teens who get stalked by a masked killer while at a conversion camp.

“They/Them” is, without a doubt, the worst movie I’ve seen so far this year. Almost every single aspect of this film is terrible, and although I did enjoy some parts, I was extremely miserable for most of the mercifully short 104-minute runtime.

To start with the positives, Kevin Bacon’s performance was easily the best part of the entire film. He plays the leader of this conversion camp and gives the character a lot of fake kindness that slowly turns into something more menacing. I was also excited to see characters actually getting killed later; their deaths were unfortunately not very graphic, but there was one entertaining death scene.

That’s all I have in terms of positives. One problem I have is how sparse the actual “slashing” is in this film. Someone gets killed in the cold open, and the masked killer occasionally shows up in the first two acts, but most of the kills don’t occur until the third act. Slashers tend to spread out their deaths throughout the first two acts of the film before amping up the carnage in the final act. This isn’t to say that every slasher film has to abide by this formula: just look at Ti West’s 2022 film “X,” which was successful despite its first kill not happening until an hour into the movie.

With that film, though, I at least felt like I was being rewarded for my patience: not only were the kills satisfyingly gruesome but there was also some fun foreshadowing in the first two acts. “They/Them” has one somewhat interesting kill, but it didn’t feel very satisfying, and that may have been because I was completely zoned out at that point.

The writing and characters are the biggest reasons why I was begging for this movie to end. None of them felt like real people in the slightest, and they instead just felt like one-dimensional caricatures. If I weren’t already aware that the filmmaker was gay, I honestly would have assumed that this was written by a straight man who had never met a queer person before. Not only that, but it felt like these characters were written merely for the sake of diversity. I highly appreciate a work that has inclusive characters and casts, but I prefer when their characteristics don’t stop at “queer.” It would have been so much better if this film actually had interesting characters instead of blank slates; if that were the case, I might have actually cared after people started dying. Kevin Bacon’s performance was the only thing that actually made his character worth watching, and, as I said earlier, he was the best part of the film.

Unfortunately, the rest of the cast was not as good in this film. The worst performances in the film were probably from Germaine, Chlumsky and Tann. The latter two were a bit more forgivable to me, as they were supporting characters. Their line delivery was extremely clunky and their facial expressions were nonexistent, but at least they weren’t the most prominent characters in the film. However, Germaine was arguably playing the main character of the film, so I think it’s safe to say that their performance should be a lot better than it was. There are multiple moments where their line delivery is particularly wooden and emotionless, and their face is almost always blank. It would have been one thing if their character was written in a way that didn’t require the actor to convey a lot of emotion, but this really didn’t seem to be the case. If anything, it just seemed like Germaine had never acted in anything before this movie.

I really do not enjoy being this harsh about a film. This is not the worst thing I’ve ever seen, and I do feel like most of the cast and crew worked hard on this film. Unfortunately, the writing, directing and acting are not strong enough to bolster this simultaneously dull, irritating and sad excuse of a slasher.

RATING: 2/10