LGBTQ+ conversion therapy is a sensitive subject matter, and for first-time director and three-time Academy Award-winning screenwriter John Logan, it’s a personal topic. However, They/Them, which is a passion project he wrote during the lockdown and subsequently directed, loses some of its prominence because it’s made as a slasher. That is not a general statement, however, because as Vince A. Liaguno observes here:
So what about They/Them being a slasher film makes it not as compelling as it could be? Before I get into that, I want to make an observation about the conversion therapy films I personally love and the various tones they adopted.
The first that comes to mind is the RuPaul and Natasha Lyonne starrer But I’m a Cheerleader. It came out 22 years ago and is still one of the most openly confrontational and relevant works against conversion therapy. However, it delivers the commentary through comedy. Anyone with a taste for dark jokes will fall in love with the light-heartedness with which the film deals with the grim reality of conversion therapy. Another much more recent film is The Miseducation of Cameron Post directed by Desiree Akhavan. It’s an intense coming-of-age drama that chooses to dwell on the terrifying nature of conversion therapy and culminates in a climax that feels like a much needed breath after a series of tortuous exercises at the hands of bigots. The film Boy Erased also falls in the same sub-genre of drama. Finally, there’s the documentary format. Pray Away was released last year and is a documentary about the infamous Exodus International. It’s absolutely heartbreaking.
There are other films too, some comic, some dramatic, some documentaries, but I haven’t seen any conversion therapy films which are also slashers, which is strange, given the slasher film’s formulaic approach in the 80’s of being set in campsites. Think Sleepaway Camp, Friday the 13, Madman, among others. So, when They/Them was announced, I was really excited to watch it the moment it came out, pun intended. It’s also Kevin Bacon’s return to the slasher genre. However, after watching it, They/Them falls short because it’s a slasher and here’s why I think that is: