In the first teaser trailer for Blumhouse Productions' “They/Them,” Kevin Bacon runs a conversion therapy camp meant to help queer teens “find a new sense of freedom.”
As if that wasn’t already a terrifying premise, a masked killer begins to stalk and murder the teens, who are also subjected to cruel “treatments” by the camp’s staff that are meant to cure them of being LGBTQ. The campers, led by a trans and nonbinary teen named Jordan (Theo Germaine), have to work together to protect themselves and dig into the camp’s past, according to a news release.
The film — pronounced they-slash-them as a shoutout to the slasher film genre — will stream exclusively starting Aug. 5 on Peacock, the streaming service of NBC Universal, parent company of NBC News.
Germaine, who also starred in Netflix’s “The Politician,” told Entertainment Weekly that Jordan doesn’t “have a very positive relationship with their family, and they’re out, and they’re like, this is who I am.”
“They want to legally emancipate themselves, and they make a deal with their parents, which is that they go to this conversion camp for a week, and if it doesn’t work, their parents will get out of the way and make it easy for them to separate,” said Germaine, who is nonbinary and uses gender-neutral pronouns.
Germaine said Bacon’s character is friendly at the beginning of the film, but that “he gets very creepy and scarier as the film goes on,” according to Entertainment Weekly: “I think he represents the way that conversion therapy conditions you and tricks you and breaks your defenses down in order to try and get through to you to change who you are. He’s kind of the embodiment of that idea in this film.”
The film is screenwriter John Logan’s directorial debut. Logan has previously worked on films including “Gladiator” and “The Aviator.” When Peacock announced the film in May, Logan said “They/Them” had been “germinating within me my whole life.”
“I’ve loved horror movies as long as I can remember, I think because monsters represent ‘the other’ and as a gay kid I felt a powerful sense of kinship with those characters who were different, outlawed, or forbidden,” Logan said in a statement at the time. “I wanted to make a movie that celebrates queerness, with characters that I never saw when I was growing up. When people walk away from the movie, I hope they’re going to remember the incredible love that these kids have for each other and how that love needs to be protected and celebrated.”
There have been a wide variety of responses to the trailer on social media. Some said the film won them over with its title, calling it “brilliant.”
“They/Them” is thought to be the first mainstream horror film that features a nonbinary character. At least one social media user celebrated having a new slasher flick to add to the growing canon of queer horror.
But some people said they believe the film is making light of conversion therapy, a widely discredited practice that is banned in 20 states and Washington, D.C.
“Who is cashing out on this? Have they consulted with conversion therapy survivors? I have NOT been consulted and neither has my friends. My conversion therapy story is not a joke. It’s not a ‘horror movie.’ It’s my reality,” Matt Ashcroft, who advocates against conversion therapy, wrote on Twitter.
In an emotional video, Ashcroft asked, "If this is not about ending conversion therapy, what is this about?"
Another person said they have mixed feelings about watching queer teens be murdered on screen.
“Like what’s the message?” they added. “Conversion camp is bad? Homophobia kills? I’m not trying to be cynical but I am very curious to see how this movie unfolds.”