Entertainment 'They/They' highlights the dangers of combining horror and social...

‘They/They’ highlights the dangers of combining horror and social commentary

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(CNN)Horror movies are no stranger Social commentary, or the desire to be cathartic about how they use violence. Yet the latest example of those impulses, “They/Them,” illustrates just how tricky those propositions can be, in a story that can at times feel creepy, exploitative, and instructive, without being particularly tense or scary.

The fact that the film is debuting on NBC’s streaming service Peacock suggests that no one saw the finished product as a major commercial attraction. But it’s worth admitting because it shows the kind of horror movie that wants to have its cake and carve it too.
The premise involves a group of teenagers sent to a gay-conversion-therapy camp, a classic no-escape setting in the middle of nowhere without cellphone reception.
    Adding another notch to his resume, Kevin Bacon plays a camp owner who greets newcomers by saying “I can’t straighten you out” after passing a sign that reads “Respect. Renew. Enjoy.”
      Still, this is a horror film, so the cheerful reception soon gives way to less-than-friendly interactions. And when the victims take an unexpected turn, there’s still the matter of psychologically exploiting vulnerable teenagers, whose de facto leader, Jordan (“Work in Progress” Theo Germain), is both immediately suspicious and stern and resourceful when necessary.
      From the 1999 cult favorite “But I’m a Cheerleader” to the 2018 factual drama “Boy Erased” starring Lucas Hedges and starring Joel Edgerton, many films have tackled the gay-transition phenomenon. the leader
      However, those films were not trying to cater to the specific demands of horror audiences, such as “they/them”, including promos that emphasized “https://www.cnn.com/” (think slash). Even cheeky moments and speeches about titles and self-acceptance can’t overcome the serious and timely problem that it’s being used as a tool to add yet another wrinkle to the adolescent threat formula.
        As mentioned, horror has demonstrated the ability to navigate these waters, and The success of “Get Out”. The mix of horror, comedy and race certainly encouraged studios to pursue such themes.
        “They/Them” is produced by Blumhouse, which had a hand in “Get Out”. Yet the company complied “The Hunt,” A dark satire about wealthy elites preying on red-state people for sport, it was controversial for some of the same reasons — tackling a complicated subject, risking trivializing the US’s toxic political divide.
        There’s a fine line between provocative and empowering — which, based on press notes, writer-director John Logan (the “Penny Dreadful” legend and who wrote the James Bond movies) wanted the message to be understood — and borderline tone deaf.
        UPI’s Fred Topel scans reviews of “It/It.” Recognizing this inherent tensionwrites, “As an out gay filmmaker, Logan has something honest to say about both anti-LGBTQ tactics and the slasher film genre. Unfortunately, conflating them sabotages both sides of the story.”
        In a crowded media world, anything that sparks a conversation can be seen as a win; After all, it’s not like this space is regularly filled with straight-to-the-peacock movie reviews.
          Unlike the aforementioned sign in the film, however, the lessons in “It/Them” are mostly cautionary, such as “Reflect. Rethink. Repeat.”
          “Them/Them” premieres August 5 on Peacock.

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