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In the slasher They/Them, queer people are the heroes, not the victims

John Logan is no stranger to making blockbuster films, having written the screenplays for Gladiator, Hugo, Skyfall, The Aviator and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. But for his directorial debut, the three-time Oscar-nominated screenwriter wanted to write a love letter to the slasher genre, starring a cast of queer protagonists that his younger self has always wanted to see.

“Horror films have a very complicated relationship with gender and sexual identity, and growing up and watching, for example, the first cycle of slasher films or any other horror film, queer characters were underrepresented,” Logan, 60, told NBC News in the video interview. “They were either invisible, which was horrifying in a way, or they were jokes, or they were victims, and I know how much it would have meant to me when I was 12, 13, 14 to see a queer hero.”

From left: Carrie Preston, Anna Chlumsky, Boone Platt and Kevin Bacon in They/Them.
From left: Carrie Preston, Anna Chlumsky, Boone Platt and Kevin Bacon in They/Them.Josh Stringer / Blumhouse

Produced by Jason Blum of Blumhouse Productions, They/Them — cleverly pronounced “they-slash-them” and premiering Friday on Peacock — follows a group of LGBTQ campers who arrive with “a new sense of the Freedom” is promised at Camp Whistler, a conversion therapy camp run by Owen Whistler (Kevin Bacon), his sadistic therapist Cora (Carrie Preston), and a group of suspiciously inviting counselors. But as the workers try to tear down each of the participants, a mysterious killer begins to claim unsuspecting victims, and the campers are forced to band together in a fight for survival.

The chilling premise for “They/Them” had germinated in Logan’s mind for years, he said, and he wrote two of the roles with specific actors in mind: Bacon as the owner and Brazilian actor Darwin Del Fabro as the enigmatic camper named Gabriel. And while he didn’t originally consider directing the film, Logan “became very attached” to writing the script “because it was so personal,” and Blum encouraged him to direct, Logan said.

“Very rarely do I write with a specific actor in mind, but the moment I sat down to start writing Owen Whistler, I kept hearing Kevin’s voice,” he explained. “One of the things Kevin is so adept at is playing nuance. When we first meet Owen Whistler he comes across as very reasonable, very sensible and charming and Kevin was able to charm the birds from the trees and yet he is able to turn his head for even a moment to pose a threat and a Aura of danger around you. … He’s been a great collaborator the whole time.”

Logan, a lifelong lover of horror movies, said he wanted to celebrate “all the tropes” of the slasher genre, including a secluded camp in the woods, a masked killer using multiple methods of killing, and a growing sense of dread with higher stakes for all of the protagonists. But beyond the film’s tone and “physical landscape,” he wanted to celebrate the seven queer characters — and the actors who play them — whom he dubs “The Magnificent Seven.”

Theo Germaine, center, and Austin Crute in "them."
Theo Germaine, center, and Austin Crute in They/Them. Josh Stringer / Blumhouse

“They’re the ones who face evil, and because they’re pulling together, they’re very empowered,” he said. “So I had no last girl or last boy; I had a collection of past heroes.”

Logan noted that unlike other hitmen in the genre, Camp Whistler’s assailant “is motivated by something very specific about what’s called conversion therapy, and they have a motivation that relates directly to insidious evil — that’s the concept you.” can change people’s identities.”

according to a 2019 report from the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of LawIn the US alone, nearly 700,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender adults have undergone conversion therapy at some point in their lives.

After intimate conversations with conversion therapy survivors, Logan said he wanted to convey not only the physical toll of the controversial practice — which, as shown in the film, may involve shock or aversion therapy — but also “the psychological assault on the children of trying to make them to doubt who they are, to question them and to slander who they really were.”

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“Everyone I spoke to who had been through conversion therapy said [the psychological aspect] was the most insidious and terrifying part of it — having her identity somehow attacked in different ways every day,” he recalled. “It was the psychological horror that in some ways was the most profound for her, leading to a pivotal scene in the film where the character Jordan (Theo Germaine) conducts a psychological evaluation with the character Cora. … It’s a very long, very quiet scene and it’s really the scariest part of the movie for me.”

As a middle-aged gay man, Logan knew he would need help capturing the diversity of the LGBTQ community in 2022, particularly the struggles that transgender and non-binary people regularly face. He worked closely with Scott Schofield, a senior consultant at GLAAD who served as executive producer in the early stages of the project, and actors Germaine and Quei Tann to develop a better understanding of the modern politics of sexuality and gender identity.

In addition to talking to the cast and crew about sensitivity issues like which pronoun to use and which bathroom to use, Schofield was “incredibly helpful in working through the intimacy scenes because there are some types of romantic and sexual situations in the film [where] I wanted to make sure we were treating the actors with the utmost respect and that they felt their voices were being heard,” Logan said. “But Scott was there every day, and I kept turning to him like, ‘Are we doing this right? Are we saying that correctly? What are the concerns I don’t know about?’”

For Logan, They/Them aims to be “a celebration of all aspects of the queer experience,” including sexuality, romance, and the overall “exuberance of the queer experience.” The film contains several intimate scenes designed to show “how queer people interact erotically — just like you see straight people interacting erotically all your life on screen,” he said.

“One of the romantic scenes is very romantic: you’re sitting on a dock, the sun is shining beautifully, and these two characters get together after the whole movie to celebrate a new found love, so we always approach it very romantically,” he said explained. “One of the other romantic scenes is very erotic, it’s very powerful. It’s kind of a primal connection between two of the characters, so in a way it’s trying to deal with all the different forms of romantic erotic expression and frolic that can occur – in a joyful but also honest way.”

This joy is particularly evident in an early bonding scene in the cabins, when the campers sing “F—–‘ Perfect” by P!nk, who underwritten the song’s use in the film. In many ways, “it was the perfect song,” Logan quipped. “P!nk is a huge LGBTQ+ advocate, so it seemed very appropriate that this song, in Jordan’s deepest moment, be the song that brings her back to that sense of empowerment. In fact, that’s when all of these different characters come together to become a family, if you will.”

The song also reappears at the end of the film when the surviving campers are left to their own devices the morning after the killer is unmasked.

“I think character growth or human growth comes through the crucible of conflict,” Logan said. “We emerge as better people when tested in any way, and the characters in this film are put to the test both mentally and physically in relation to the fear and terror of this camp, and they leave united, proud and strong out of it and brave. … I hope it’s a very entertaining horror film for general audiences, but it has another meaning – which is, if you know queer people in your life, celebrate them.”

Having written and produced a variety of stories for stage and screen over the past four decades, Logan found that the significant advances in LGBTQ representation made this timely for a film like They/Them , which probably wouldn’t have been the case five to ten years ago.

When he made films like Any Given Sunday in 1999, “queer characters weren’t represented at all in mainstream Hollywood films. Or if so, then in a romantic comedy as a gay best friend or a lesbian best friend,” Logan said. “But over the years, we’ve gradually been able to open those doors to queer characters.”

“For me personally, ‘Skyfall’ was a big sign of that as Javier Bardem has his first scene with Dan Craig and we’re delving into homoerotic seduction,” he continued. “And I have to say people, the Bond universe for example, were very excited about that – as were [director] Sam Mendes to say, “Yeah, that’s modern. Now we can portray characters in complex, interesting ways. You’re not always the best friend, the victim, or the prankster; They can also be complicated characters.’ And that just kept building up to the point where a film like They/Them can fully embrace these characters in all their complexity.”

They/Them is now streaming on Peacock (NBC News and Peacock are both owned by NBCUniversal).

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https://www.nbcnews.com/nbc-out/out-pop-culture/slasher-queer-people-are-heroes-not-victims-rcna41613 In the slasher They/Them, queer people are the heroes, not the victims

Fry Electronics Team

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