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!

Firestarter (2022)

A slow burner that ultimately flames out

Heads up, folks. I’m going to be making a lot of bad fire related puns in this review but I won’t spoil the film.

Yesterday I visited the original Firestarter film from 1984. You can check out my thoughts on that film if you’d like in this post. Put briefly, I enjoyed the film but wasn’t really impressed by it in any way shape or form. I watched it in order to prepare myself for the 2022 film adaptation of Stephen King’s novel from 1980. After watching the 2022 version, I’m left with many of the same feelings for it that I had with the original.

In 2022’s Firestarter, Zac Efron takes on the role of Andy McGee and Ryan Kiera Armstrong portrays his daughter, Charlie. Both of them have amazing powers. Andy can “push” people mentally to make them believe and/or do whatever he wishes. Charlie has the power of pyrokinesis. She can set things on fire with her mind. She also has a combination of her father and mother’s abilities. Sydney Lemmon plays Charlie’s mom, Vicky McGee, who can move things with her mind, communicate telepathically, and has premonition abilities as well.

Andy and Vicky have been successfully hiding from “The Shop,” a government agency that ran tests on the couple as college students that resulted in them gaining their powers, for over a decade. When Charlie was born, agents for The Shop attempted to kidnap her so that she could be studied and, ultimately, weaponized. The McGees managed to get away and have been on the run ever since that time. As Charlie has grown older, her powers have increased and she finds it harder to control or suppress them. When she has an explosive accident at school, The Shop goes back on the hunt by bringing in an assassin named John Rainbird to eliminate the McGee adults and collect Charlie for the agency.

The original film focused primarily on the hunt for Charlie and Andy. It dismissed the character of Vicky early in the movie. Firestarter 2022 takes about an hour to establish the McGee family situation and to build up Andy, Vicky, and Charlie as characters. It’s a slow burner that simmers throughout the first hour and then heats up quickly once John Rainbird catches up to Andy and Charlie. Rainbird is a strange anomaly in this film, as his character arc takes a unique turn compared to what he did in both the original film and the novel. I won’t spoil what happens, but I didn’t really care for what his character ends up doing in the film. It’s kind of aggravating for me because I really like how sinister and cold Rainbird is for almost all of the movie.

The original film felt more like a science fiction adventure than a horror film in my opinion. The 2022 film turns up the heat on the horror. Charlie seems to enjoy burning things at times, even prior to the film’s climax. She also throws in a few line of dialogue that let you know that she’s not necessarily a fan of her daddy at times. She’s calculating and downright wicked at times as well. This makes her seem like much more of a threat than innocent little Drew Barrymore came across in the original film.

The film isn’t terrible, but it’s nothing special either. For a film about a kid that can make fire with her mind, the cinematography is decidedly dull and dark. Many scenes were extremely dark, possibly to hide any shortcomings of the CGI used in the film even though I thought that the CGI was done extremely well. Also, I’m okay with director Keith Thomas focusing on the family unit for the first hour of the film but I really wish that he hadn’t rushed the final half hour in order to end it all with a long and laborious climax. I wanted more of the chase, more development of Rainbird and blink-and-you’ll-miss-him Dr. Wanless (Kurtwood Smith). Captain Hollister (Gloria Reuben) talked a good game but she wasn’t in the film long enough for me to care about her. The whole film just feels to rushed and too slow all at once. I willsay that the film’s score, done by legendary horror icon John Carpenter, his son, Cody, and Daniel Davies, is excellent. l might try to pick up a copy of it for myself.

As far as the cast is concerned, it’s a complete 180 from the original film. Where the first film had a nice litany of great actors, the acting overall was subpar. The 2022 film has lesser known actors in most of the roles but all of them turn in stellar performances. As already mentioned, Armstrong walks a fine line between innocent and sinister as Charlie. Michael Greyeyes, the first actual Indigenous actor to portray Rainbird, who is Cherokee in the book, knocks it out of the park. His performance was great, Kurtwood Smith wasn’t in the film long enough to do much and Gloria Reubens was a tad over the top as Captain Hollister. Sydney Lemmon did a great job as Vicky. Zac Efron, the only “major” star in the film, did a great job as Andy, Charlie’s overly cautious father who often finds himself at odds with both Vicky and Charlie. Efron continues to impress me with his versatility as an actor,

So is it worth checking out? If you have the Peacock streaming service, yes, it is. I recommend watching it on the streamer. I don’t know if I would plunk down any hard earned money to see it in a theater, though, as it comes across as more of a well done, nicely budgeted made-for-TV film than a major motion picture. It’s okay, but much like its predecessor, it’s nothing amazing.

Thanks for burning a little of your time with me by reading my post. See you again soon!

Resident Alien: The Fish Out Of Water Show That You Should Watch

“At least I’m killing them for a good reason.”

When an alien crash lands while attempting to destroy all of the humans on Earth, he goes undercover as Dr. Harry Vanderspeigle, a doctor who the alien kills in self defense in the SyFy series Resident Alien. As he searches for the device that he needs to finish his mission, he becomes the town doctor in Patience, CO when the original doctor, Sam Hodges, is found dead in his practice. Harry attempts to blend in with the citizens of the sleepy Colorado town by “researching” the show Law & Order. He forms a friendship with Asta Twelvetrees, who worked for Dr. Hodges, and eventually develops relationships, some quite uneasy, with various members of the community. Some of the primary folks that he interacts with are the local sheriff, “Big Black” Mike Thompson, Deputy Liv Baker, Mayor Ben Hawthorne, and Dan Twelvetrees, owner of the local diner and Asta’s adoptive father. Harry also becomes close with Asta’s best friend, D’Arcy Bloom, a former Olympic skier, who falls briefly for Harry.

Harry also comes into conflict with Mayor Hawthorne’s son, Max, who just so happens to be one of the few humans that can see Harry’s true form. The two go after one another with Harry attempting to kill Max on a number of occasions. Max attempts to reveal Harry’s true identity to many people in the town but no one believes him except for his young friend, Sahar, an intelligent girl who, along with Max, manages to outwit Harry on numerous occasions.

As the series’ first season plays out, Harry unintentionally begins to have feelings for the very people that he is supposed to wipe out. He forms a strong bond with Asta. They are both outsiders in their own way and they become close friends as a result. D’Arcy is attracted to Harry but they end up simply being good friends. Max has the biggest influence on Harry. Without giving too much away, the duo end up helping one another in the long run, especially when a secret agency begins looking for Harry and his spaceship. Other relationships explored in the series include the mayor and his wife, Asta and Dan, Sheriff Thompson and Deputy Baker, and Max and Sahar.

The series is full of hilarious moments. Most of the laughs are generated when Harry attempts to interact with people in the town. He gets drunk with Asta and D’Arcy, becomes ecstatic when he performs an autopsy, and is often humbled by the townsfolk when he attempts to show off his intelligence. The biggest laughs come via the interactions between Harry and Max. The pair are brutal to one another. Max makes fun of Harry’s attempts to blend in and Harry calls the young boy a ton of inappropriate names.

This is an excellent series that I discovered late last year on Peacock. Having been out of my home for almost a year due to Hurricane Laura, I missed a ton of programs on television. I played catch up in July and August and Resident Alien was a welcome surprise. It provided a much needed break from the reality of dealing with contractors, the COVID-19 pandemic, and insurance companies. The first season of the series is currently available on Peacock and Hulu. Season Two recently began on SyFy and new episodes arrive on Peacock one day later. I am not sure if Hulu is releasing the second season as of yet.

The series stars the hilarious Alan Tudyk as Harry, Sara Tomko as Asta, and Judah Prehn as Max. It also features Corey Reynolds as the sheriff, Alice Wetterlund as D’Arcy, Levi Fiehler as Mayor Hawthorne, and Elizabteh Bowen as Deputy Baker. Gary Farmer (Dan), Meredith Garretson (Kate Hawthorne, the mayor’s wife and Max’ mom), Jenna Lamia (Judy, D’Arcy’s friend), and Gracelyn Awad Rinke (Sahar) are also featured in the series. Linda Hamilton makes an excellent appearance as the director of a secret group that’s hunting Harry.

I can’t recommend this series enough. It’s funny, heartwarming, and features the perfect amount of drama and action. Tudyk and Tomko shine as does Wetterlund and Prehn. The entire cast is brilliant. Be sure to check out this series if you haven’t had the chance. You won’t regret it!

Thanks for checking out my brief look as Resident Alien. I appreciate all of you!