The Politician’s Theo Germaine has said shooting They/Them was “challenging” because of their own experience with “conversion tactics”.
They/Them, the new slasher flick from Blumhouse, follows a group of LGBTQ+ teenagers as they arrive at an isolated conversion camp run by an eerily charming Owen Whistler (Kevin Bacon).
At the centre of the story is Jordan (Germaine), a trans and non-binary camp-goer who immediately runs into trouble with gender-segregated dormitories.
For Germaine, the script felt like a challenge – something they’re always looking for in projects.
“Really dealing with these topics also felt kind of intimidating because of my personal history with the umbrella that is conversion tactics,” they tell PinkNews.
“It kind of felt like the perfect storm of exactly what I needed to be working on.”
Theo Germaine attends the 2022 Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ+ Film Festival closing night. (Amanda Edwards/WireImage)
They were also excited at the prospect of playing a character whose gender identity closely matches theirs.
“I’ve not really gotten to play somebody yet who fits my real life profile quite as much,” Germaine says. “So I was like, I really want to play somebody who uses my [they/them] pronouns, that would be really awesome.”
They/Them taps into real-life horrors
The horror genre is the perfect place to explore a topic like conversion therapy, Germaine says – it can help people learn how to “deal with pain”
“It gives you – I think at least – a feeling of catharsis, a little bit of space to process your relationship with whatever conversion therapy might be as a queer person,” they say.
‘it also gives you a little bit of a sense of hope at the same time, especially if characters survive in a lot of horror films – that makes you feel pumped and it makes you feel like you can survive.”
Everyone involved with the film is painfully aware of the landscape for LGBTQ+ youth in the United States right now.
Their rights are being rolled back and hate crime is on the rise. Meanwhile, parents are still sending their children to bogus conversion “therapists” in a desperate bid to change them.
The cast of They/Them. (Josh Stringer/Blumhouse)
Trans actor and writer Scott Turner Schofield joined They/Them as an executive producer because he wanted to be part of a project that was tapping into the real-life horrors queer people are facing today.
“When we first started making this movie I knew that this was a social issues film that was going to be impactful, but over the last year since we’ve made it it’s only gotten more and more relevant, unfortunately,” Schofield says.
“This is set in a conversion therapy camp but it’s also an allegory for what’s going on in our world, for the ways that people are coming for the LGBTQ+ community, and thankfully for the ways we can all link up and get through it together.”
The slasher genre has been slow on inclusion – for too long, characters who aren’t straight, cis and white have been relegated to two-dimensional background players – and are often the first to be picked off.
Austin Crute plays Toby, a gay Black man who revels in his high-camp energy. He thinks the film will resonate with all LGBTQ+ people who have ever been made to feel that they should change facets of their identity.
“I felt like in this genre you don’t really see a lot of representation of this community, and we’re all going through our own kind of conversion therapies in our own ways – people telling us to talk different, not be so feminine if you’re masculine presenting, and all of that,” Crute says.
“This movie has something for everybody that’s going through it.”
The cast of They/Them. (Josh Stringer/Blumhouse)
Monique Kim, who plays bisexual camper Veronica, was excited at the prospect of playing an Asian-American character that isn’t a stereotype.
“I never thought in a million years that I’d get the opportunity to play a queer character and to be a part of a queer love story,” she said. “So I just got to check everything off my bucket list with this one role.”
Cooper Koch’s character Stu will be familiar to plenty of LGBTQ+ people. He’s the jock who dreams of becoming a professional swimmer, but he doesn’t think he can achieve his dreams if he’s gay.
Koch says what makes the film scary isn’t jump scares or gore – it’s frightening because it shows the real-world consequences of forcing LGBTQ+ to change who they are
“The scenes that are the most scary are the ones where we’re being converted – where the conversion therapy is actually happening,” he says.
Monique Kim (L) and Anna Lore (R) in They/Them. (Josh Stringer/Blumhouse)
Anna Lore, who plays a closeted camper named Kim, agrees.
“Through horror we can shed light on these dark places,” Lore says. “Conversion therapy is so dangerous and I think it’s the danger of that therapy, and what it does to the kids that are put through it, that we’re able to explore in the film in a movie that people want to watch.
“You’re going to go to the film, you’re going to see amazing queer representation, you’re going to have a great time, but we’re hoping that when people leave they really have an understanding that it’s much more dangerous to try to change someone than to just let them be who they are.”
Darwin Del Fabro, who plays gay camper Gabriel, says the film comes together because you really come to care about each person who finds themselves trapped in Owen Whistler’s world.
“We’re putting queer kids at the centre of our attention, celebrating queerness, and just caring for them, so the audience will be a bit more scared because they care about those characters. That’s the most important thing for me when I’m watching a horror movie.”