‘They/Them’ Stars on Why Queerness and Horror Are a Perfect Combination

·3 min read

They/Them,” a new Blumhouse slasher that promises a queer take on the horror genre, is set to go straight to streaming on Peacock next month. But before that, the film received a full in-person theatrical screening, as the closing night premiere of Los Angeles queer film festival Outfest.

“This is the perfect place,” Kevin Bacon, who plays the film’s chief villain Owen Whistler, told Variety on the red carpet.

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“They/Them” is a slasher horror film set in a gay conversion therapy camp. “When we learned we were going to be in Outfest, let alone the closing night, we were absolutely thrilled,” Bacon said. “I don’t generally get to see my films with an audience, especially these days. When they’re made for a platform, you don’t get a chance to see how it plays. So this is really exciting.”

Joining Bacon at the Ace Hotel on Sunday were fellow cast members Theo Germaine, Carrie Preston, Quei Tann, Anna Lore, Monique Kim, Darwin del Fabro, Cooper Koch, Austin Crute, Boone Platt and Hayley Griffith as well as director John Logan and executive producer Scott Turner Schofield.

Outfest executive director Damien S. Navarro told Variety that the festival chose “They/Them,” a slasher horror film set in a gay conversion therapy camp, as its closer this year for the way in which it flips the script of horror films by having the LGBT characters be the focus and the heroes of the narrative.

“Between comedy and horror, we’ve been the butts of the jokes and we’ve been the targets of the knives, and I think it was time to flip the script a bit,” Outfest executive director Damien S. Navarro told Variety about premiering “They/Them.” “And so a lot of the themes of Outfest this year has been a horror format and series in which we get to see ourselves as the heroes for once.”

All of the cast members who play the campers in “They/Them” are queer actors, which helped them approach the material from a real place. During the premiere, Crute, who plays fun-loving camper Toby, told Variety the project spoke to him, as he struggled with a desire to conform while he was growing up.

“I’ve never set foot in a gay conversion camp, but there was a time in my life where maybe I would have given in to the pressures around me to conform,” Crute said. “I think that this movie spoke to an inner child in me that wanted to be seen, and now I feel seen, and it’s incredible.”

Self-professed horror fan Tann, who plays kindhearted camper Alexandra, talked about how queer culture and horror fits together, both in the film and in a historical context.

“Queerness is a subculture and horror is a subculture, so them coming together is copacetic. I think they make really great bedfellows,” Tann said. “I did a lot of research on horror, back in the ’70s so many people wanted to ban horror films and get them off the screen. And we also have seen in cinema people not want to tell queer stories. So since both of these subcultures have always pushed boundaries and made people feel uncomfortable, it’s really nice to see us merge those two things together.”

Although “They/Them” is an optimistic film, it’s also one that takes the harm conversion therapy camps causes for queer youth seriously. On the red carpet, Logan spoke about how the film’s queer exploration of the horror genre gains relevance in the wake of anti-queer and trans legislation that has occurred over the past year.

“I think it shows how heroic and how wonderful queer people are,” Logan said. “And the fact that we’re stronger as a people and a nation, for our diversity.”

“They/Them” will debut on Peacock Aug. 5.

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