“They/Them” is a slasher horror centered around a gay conversion camp. Thirty minutes into the film and you might be confused if this is supposed to be a slasher horror or a drama, or even a musical. “They/Them” is not for those who are looking for a horror fix. It has very few spooky scenes and can be mostly described as a drama with a few moments of horror-slasher. The film attempted to experiment with the idea of fear that stems from personal trauma, particularly the trauma that the LGBTQ+ population at the camp was experiencing. While that could have been an interesting take, it failed to create the effect that is necessary for a horror film to work.
‘They/Them’ Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?
A masked person carrying an ax is on the loose. They slash a woman driving past a forest at night. Her tire was purposefully punctured, giving the murderer the perfect opportunity to strike. Therefore, the masked person is not on a murder spree but instead has a purpose behind their actions. The next morning, we are introduced to the Whistler camp, a gay conversion camp welcoming its new campers. The young crowd were mostly forced by their parents to attend the camp to lead a heteronormative life. Owen Whistler is the camp instructor, and his wife, Cora Whistler, is the licensed therapist. Apart from the couple, the facility includes Molly, the nurse, Zane, the ex-student and athletics director, and Sara, his fiancé and activities instructor.
Owen is unlike any camp instructor one would expect at a gay conversion camp. He makes it clear that he will not be able to make anyone straight, and that was not the sole purpose of the camp. He wanted the campers to find peace in who they were, and that was his mission. He added that throughout their stay, they would not be forced to read the Bible or discuss it at all. He tried to make the young crowd feel at ease at his facility. The crowd was divided into two groups of boys and girls to live in their respective accommodations. While the crowd dispersed, Jordan waited, not knowing where they were supposed to go. They explained to Owen that they identified as trans non-binary individual and therefore did not know which way to go. Owen appreciated their honesty and asked Jordan to join the boys, and if they felt discomfort, he would think of another option. Jordan was taken aback by how apologetic Owen was. They could not help but wonder if this was all too good to be true.
While many were there to please their parents, Stuart wanted to not be gay to be able to get the swimming scholarship, which he could not get otherwise. Veronica hated being bisexual because she felt like a freak, though we later find out that she joined the camp to write her college essay on conversion camps. Kim desperately wanted to fit in. She detested herself for being attracted to women and wanted to do all in her power to stop it from happening. Alexandra was forced to come to the camp by her parents; she would have ended up in the streets otherwise. Jordan’s religious parents were the reason why they came to the camp. They made a deal: if they returned from the camp unaffected, then they would be allowed to emancipate legally. As they got to know one another, the facility analyzed the weak spots of the attendees to later affect their mental peace. Nonetheless, the campers were able to bond among themselves and sing songs together to appreciate who they were.
What Were The Various Methods Used By The Camp To “Treat” The Campers?
Sara followed Alexandra to the washroom one morning. She found that Alexandra was a transwoman, after which she was forced to live with the boys. It was her dishonesty that bothered Owen. Later, the campers were asked to dress according to their assigned gender at birth. Since Alexandra was forced to dress like a man, Jordan decided to dress in women’s clothing. Jordan was not that easy to deal with, is what Owen had realized by then. The men were forced to perform athletic activities to strengthen their bodies, while the women were taught to bake pies and make bracelets. The men were also taught to shoot, and to Owen’s surprise, Jordan was an excellent shooter, better than Zane as well.
Alexandra snuck into Molly’s room to find her hormone medication. When Molly caught her going through the box of belongings, Alexandra requested her to hand her over the medication since it would affect her health otherwise. Molly gave back her medication but asked her to keep it secret from the rest of the staff. The group was taken away for a night walk through the forest, while the rest of the faculty searched through their personal belongings. Cora found the Bible in Jordan’s bag. They had drawn over the pages, particularly the verses they did not believe in. She also found a picture of their family in the Bible, something that she would later use to make Jordan doubt their choice. In the forest, the group was divided into twos, and they wandered around, discussing their lives with one another. It was then that Jordan and Alexandra noticed the masked person in the woods, who eventually disappeared. Later, the handyman of the estate, Balthasar, was slashed to death while he was watching video recordings from the women’s shower room. The death of Balthasar indicated that the masked person was not after the campers but rather the people running the facility.
‘They/Them’ Ending Explained: Who Was The Masked Person?
During her session, Cora tried to make Jordan believe that their transition was a way to get the attention and validation of their parents. She implied that Jordan was doing it all to become like one of their Navy brothers. Cora’s creepy smile and words penetrated Jordan’s mind and made them wonder if it was all just a pretense. It was only after discussing what Cora had implied with Alexandra that they realized it was a terrible method they used to get into their heads.
Jordan woke up that night and walked into a cabin to find old pictures of the Whistler camp. The camp was generational, and the old picture of the Whistlers indicated so. They found a file that had pictures taken over the years of the victims of the camp. People were tortured there; their necks bore scars and bruises; there were blood-soaked beds and shock chambers designed for the treatment of queers. Jordan had always known that something was wrong with the place, but they now knew that it was not as liberal as it was purported to be. Of course, it was a conversion camp, and it would only get worse with time. Meanwhile, Sara attempted to seduce Kim after their baking class. Out of fear, she ran away, disgusted at what she had to face. It was probably a test conducted by the facility to see if Kim would give in to her desire. Later, Kim discussed her sexuality with Veronica, and they shared a moment of intimacy.
Stuart fell into the trap when Gabriel approached him on the lake. He made love to him in the storehouse, only to be told later that it was all a test. Gabriel worked for the facility and preyed on the campers to test them. Stuart was forced to go through shock therapy, or what they called “aversion therapy.” It was their way of forcing the subject to not like what they were attracted to. Stuart lost his senses after being exposed to the shocks; he was taken to Molly to be taken care of. She declared that Stuart needed to be taken to a hospital and that she would not only resign but even complain about the facility to the police. Owen had his reach with the higher authorities, and he established how impossible it was for Molly to shut the place down.
As Zane and Sara were lying next to each other on the bed, they exchanged sensual pictures of men and women, indicating how they were still gay but had found a way to live a heteronormative life. As they were making out, the masked person attacked them with an ax. After murdering them, the person forced Gabriel to sit on the same chair that Stuart did and electrocuted him. It was clear that the masked person was seeking revenge on the facility.
After the series of mysterious deaths that night, Molly instructed the students to prepare to leave. Alexandra led the young group to walk out of the facility. Owen asked Cora to get two rifles for themselves, but Cora was shot to death as she was about to get them. Jordan went in to collect guns for their protection, but when they heard Owen enter, they hid inside a chamber. Owen got hold of a revolver and was walking out when the masked face kicked him to the ground, dropping his revolver away from him. It was revealed that the masked person was Molly, or rather Angie Phelps. Angie had murdered nurse Molly, who was on her way to the facility in her car. She had come to the facility to seek revenge from those who destroyed her life. She came to the camp when she was fourteen and was made to believe that something was wrong with her. After leaving the facility, she had spent her life hating herself, drowning her sorrow in pills, and feeling angry. She realized that the conversion camp had left her soul hollow, and she had lost herself at a very young age. Owen managed to overpower her and grabbed hold of her, but Jordan held him at gunpoint. He knew how well Jordan could shoot; therefore, he chose to not attack. Angie asked Jordan to shoot, reminding them of the horrific things they had done over the years, but Jordan chose to not be as vicious as they were. But Angie could not accept it. She brought death upon Owen. Angie asked Jordan to join her mission to kill every member of every conversion camp that was in the country, but Jordan replied that they wanted to be with their friends and forget about what had just happened. Angie wanted to blame the deaths on Owen, but Jordan asked her to not lie anymore since there would never be an end to it. Jordan walked away from Angie, and the police went in and arrested her.
Veronica and Kim decided to tell their parents about their relationship, while Stuart and Toby seemed to have fallen in love as well. Jordan could now finally get legally emancipated, and that was what they were looking forward to. By not choosing to join Angie and the violence she brought, Jordan decided to live life their way with kindness, even for those who chose to once destroy them. While whether it was right or wrong will remain debatable, we can all agree that “They/Them” had a dull and predictable climax that could not save the film, even in the last few minutes.
“They/Them” is a 2022 Drama Thriller film directed by John Logan.