They/Them (2022)

Respect, Renew, Rejoice….

As soon as I saw the trailer for Blumhouse’s They/Them (pronounced They Slash Them), I knew that it wouldn’t be just another run of the mill slasher film. Yes, it has a cast filled primarily with LGBTQIA+ actors and takes place at a gay conversion therapy camp, which automatically makes it unique as a horror film, but that’s not what I believed would set it apart. I thought that it might utilize the horrors of conversion therapy as the catalyst for the horror and ultimately attempt to teach us about the evils of conversion therapy, discrimination against LGBTQIA+ people, or something along those lines. Instead, the film is more of a “hunter becomes the hunted” type horror thriller that, well, lacks thrills.

Spoiler-free review ahead!

The film follows a small group of LGBTQIA+ campers as they spend time at Camp Whistler, a conversion camp headed up by Owen Whistler (Kevin Bacon), his wife, Cora (Carrie Preston), who is the camp therapist, two activities directors, Zane and Sarah (Boone Platt and Hayley Griffith), and the brand new camp nurse, Molly (Anna Chlumsky). Initially, Owen and his brood of conversion counselors appear to be friendly and accepting of the campers. As the week progresses, however, the facade begins to chip away to reveal a sinister group of people intent on scaring the gay away from the campers.

While that might be scary in and of itself, the real horror comes in the form of a slasher that begins to take out individuals. Without giving too much away, the killer targets specific people to eliminate, and the film goes from being a potentially excellent reflection of the horrors of conversion therapy and the struggles of LGBTQIA+ in the world to a generic slasher film with an underwhelming and predictable conclusion.

I picked out the villain almost immediately. Certain characters were alluded to as the potential killer, but they were so forced that I was drawn to another character who, not surprisingly, was also blatantly obvious as the killer. The whole film has a forced tone to its horror, and the movie suffers as a result.

Don’t get me wrong. There were some amazing performances in this film. Monique Kim stood out from the pack as Veronica, the cooler-than-cool kid who eventually reveals their heart in the movie. Quei Tann, who portrayed Alexandra in the film, also gave a stirring performance. The rest of the young cast, especially Darwin del Fabro and Austin Crute, also gave great performances. Sadly, Theo Germaine, who played Jordan and was the focus of the film, delivered one of the weaker performances of the young cast members. Of the veteran actors in this film, Kevin Bacon pretty much phoned in his performance and Anna Chlumsky wasn’t given much to work with overall. Carrie Preston was sinister as the camp therapist and I wish that we would have had more of her on the screen.

This film wasn’t an entire bust. The performances of the young cast carried it enough that it held my interest. There’s a brilliant twist featuring one of the campers as well. As for the slasher, the mask was amazing and there’s definitely potential for a sequel. I just hope that if there is another They/Them film, it will either fully embrace the slasher angle or pursue exposing the evils of discrimination against LGBTQIA+ people. It’s worth a watch if you have Peacock, but it’s not a must-see film.

Thanks for checking out my review. I have a few more reviews up my sleeve that will be coming soon and next week I’ll be post my next entry in The Year of KISS. See you soon!

Classic Horror: Tremors (1990)

“We Killed That Motherhumper!”

I remember going to the movies in late January of 1990 with my family. My mom and sister decided to see a romantic comedy. My dad chose to join me in watching a flick starring Kevin Bacon (the cool guy that I knew) and Fred Ward (the older, cool guy that my dad knew). The only other thing that I knew about this film was what I saw on the wonderful lobby display that featured a photo of Bacon, Ward, and Finn Carter looking down at a massive monster head that appeared to be coming out of the ground. It either moved up and down or the jaws opened and shut. I cannot recall exactly what it did, but I remember that it moved. I walked into the nearly empty theater where only five or so other people sat and waited for the film to begin. Little did I know that this film would become one of my favorite movies of all time.

I loved the movie. My dad loved the movie. Hardly anybody else in the world watched the film until it was later released on home video but when they finally saw it, they loved it as well. It shouldn’t have worked. It was really nothing more than a decently funded B-movie about sand worm monsters that gobble up humans, sheep, horses, and anything else that caused vibrations on the surface of the planet but it worked. It co-starred Michael Gross as the gun-happy survivalist named Burt Gummer. Up until that point Gross was best known as the kind, progressively liberal public television station manager Steven Keaton from Family Ties. Burt was the polar opposite of Steven Keaton and it worked. Reba McEntire, who was already a successful country singer who didn’t need the money, portrayed Burt’s wife, Heather, in her acting debut. She was brilliant and added a ton of humor to the film. She shouldn’t have been such a great character, but she worked. All of it worked. It was a pure joy to watch this film.

In the film, Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward play Val and Earl, two handymen intent on leaving the sleepy little ghost town of Perfection, NV, for the bright lights and better opportunities in nearby Bixby. Perfection has a population of fourteen, but on the day that Val and Earl finally leave for greener pastures, the population begins to drop quickly. They find Edgar, the town drunk, dead from dehydration on an electrical tower. Then they discover the decapitated head of Fred poking out of the ground in his garden and all of his sheep mutilated. They rush back into Perfection to warn the others that a killer is on the loose. Meanwhile, telephone workers and the local doctor and his wife meet the same fate as Edgar and Fred.

Eventually Val and Earl face off with one of the monsters and survive its attack whenever the beast accidentally kills itself while trying to ram through a cement canal after which they meet up with Rhonda LeBeck (Carter), a graduate student that they met earlier in the film. Based on seismology tests that she’s been running in the valley, she determines that there are at least three more of the creatures still stalking the valley. The trio spend the night on a rock, one of the few places where the monsters can’t reach them, and then make a mad dash back to town. From there they make plans to finish off the remaining monsters and head for the mountains to get help. It will take all of the surviving citizens of Perfection to battle with the beasts.

While the monsters were definitely an amazing part of this film, it was the cast that made this movie so much better than it should have been. Bacon and Ward were hilarious as Val and Earl and I wish that they would team up for one last run in a Tremors sequel. Gross and McEntire were cast perfectly for their roles as Burt and Heather. Carter’s Rhonda was the most level-headed member of the group, but even she had a few great comedic moments. The rest of the cast was filled out by Tony Genaro as Miguel, Charlotte Stewart as Nancy and Ariana Richards (who would later star in Jurassic Park) as her daughter, Mindy, Bobby Jacoby as the annoying Melvin, Victor Wong as Walter, and Richard Marcus as Nestor. They all did wonderful jobs in their roles.

All of the creature effects were practical. Life-sized models and miniatures were used to shoot the creatures as they attacked both below and above the surface. Excellent camera work was utilized to recreate the movement of the creatures in the ground. There were also a ton of explosives and weapons (Burt and Heather’s gun “cabinet”) used as well. All of the effects looked believable.

Shockingly, professional critics appeared to enjoy the film for the most part, with only a few naysayers in the bunch. As I’ve already said, the film is a decently funded B-movie that works. It features stereotypical characters and monsters that somehow manage to rise to another level. This movie is fun and you should see it if you haven’t yet. Its blending of horror, action, and comedy is…..Perfection.

This movie is one of my favorite films of all time. It spawned five sequels, one prequel, and one television series that lasted for one season. All of the sequels and the prequel were released direct to video. The first sequel, Tremors 2: Aftershocks, starred Fred Ward and Michael Gross. All future films and the television series would star Gross as Burt Gummer with the exception of Tremors 4: The Legend Begins, where Gross portrays Burt’s great grandfather, Hiram Gummer. The third film would also see all of the first film’s survivors return with the exceptions of Ward, Bacon, McEntire, and Carter. A second television series starring Kevin Bacon was being developed in 2017 but failed to get picked up by SyFy or any other channel.

Thanks for reading my post. I love this film and have enjoyed all of the sequels and the prequel to varying degrees. The first film was perfect but, as I’ve already stated, I’d love to see Val and Earl face off with the monsters just one more time.

Classic Horror: Friday The 13th (1980)

They were warned….

Today’s Classic Horror features the first film in one of the most successful horror franchises of all time, 1980’s Friday The 13th. The film turned forty years old on May 9th of this year, so it’s fitting that I should highlight the movie that started it all for Jason Voorhees even though he isn’t the central character nor the primary villain in this film.

L to R: Jeannine Taylor, Kevin Bacon, Mark Nelson, Adrienne King, Laurie Bartram, and Harry Crosby III.

Just in case you are wondering, there are spoilers ahead!

The film is actually a pretty generic slasher flick. A group of attractive young people arrive at Camp Crystal Lake in order to help its current owner, Steve Christy (Peter Brouwer), refurbish and clean up the grounds in order to open up for summer camp. Unfortunately for the group, the locals in the nearby town believe that the camp is cursed. They warn the youngsters about “Camp Blood” and all of the horrible things that happened there ever since a young boy drowned and a young couple was murdered the following year. Despite the warnings, the group moves ahead with their work. One by one, they are picked off by a murderer who is never shown on camera. When there’s only one person left, the villain is finally revealed to be the mother of Jason Voorhees, the young boy who drowned in the lake many years before.

Betsy Palmer starred as the insane Pamela Voorhees, driven to murder by the voice of her son. Adrienne King portrayed Alice Hardy, the final girl in the film and the one who faces off with Mrs. Voorhees. She also gets a spooky surprise during a dream sequence at the end of the film. It introduces the world to Jason Voorhees (Ari Lehman) sans the hockey mask that would make him famous. The film also starred Kevin Bacon in one of his earliest roles, Harry Crosby III, son of Bing Crosby, Laurie Bartram, Jeannine Taylor, and Mark Nelson. Also appearing briefly in the film as a camp counselor who is murdered on her way to the camp is Robbi Morgan as Annie Phillips.

Robbi Morgan as Annie Phillips.

The film was criticized by the MPAA for its violence which, by today’s standards, is actually pretty tame. The movie was also criticized for exploiting the young cast by having them run around in underwear and shirtless at points and a brief scene involving nudity. Again, by today’s standards, especially when compared to more modern slasher films, this movie is very tame. Critics of the time panned the film for numerous reasons, some that were actually warranted. As I already mentioned, the film was a fairly basic slasher film. The acting wasn’t great but it wasn’t bad either. What really gets me is how many critics were angered and/or couldn’t believe that an elderly woman could pull off all of the murders in the film. Many critics didn’t like the fact that a woman was the killer, either.

Betsy Palmer as Pamela Voorhees.

The movie would go on to produce a seemingly endless chain of sequels, one that even happens in the future aboard a spaceship (Jason X, 2002). In 2003, much to the delight of horror fans, Jason faced off against A Nightmare on Elm Street‘s Freddy Krueger in Freddy Vs. Jason. The franchise was rebooted in 2009 but there has yet to be a sequel to that film. A television show was released in 1987 and ran for three seasons. It followed two cousins who ran an antique store and collected cursed items to safely store away. It had no connection with the film series despite being called Friday The 13th: The Series. There have been books, video games, action figures, and much, much more paraphernalia that has been released over the last forty years as well. The franchise has shown to be one of the most profitable horror properties in history. It is second only to the Halloween franchise and only gave up the top spot in 2018.

Of the cast, only Kevin Bacon went on to have a massively successful career. Many of the actors went on to have minor roles in film and television and a few have had solid voice acting careers. Adrienne King became the focus of a stalker and, as a result, left the United States to study art and dance. She eventually returned and began doing voice work, afraid to show her face on camera. She has slowly returned to acting on screen in small roles.

Adrienne King as Alice Hardy.

If you’ve never watched any of the Friday the 13th films, give this one a look. It’s a standard slasher film but it’s still worth checking out because of the films and franchise growth that would follow.

Thanks for taking a trip to Camp Crystal Lake with me today. I plan on taking a look at a couple of other films in the franchise in my Classic Horror series.