They/Them Director John Logan Talks Queer Horror & P!nk

ComingSoon spoke to They/Them writer and director John Logan about the slasher horror film that takes place at a conversion camp. Logan discussed the growing trend of queer horror and what directing your first film is like.“Kevin Bacon plays Owen Whistler in this slasher horror film set at an LGBTQIA+ conversion camp,” says the synopsis. “Several queer and trans campers join Whistler for a week of programming intended to “help them find a new sense of freedom”. As the camp’s methods become increasingly more psychologically unsettling, the campers must work together to protect themselves. When a mysterious killer starts claiming victims, things get even more dangerous.”Tyler Treese: You’ve had such a successful career as a writer. Did you always know that one day you wanted to direct, or is that a more recent aspiration?John Logan: No, I never wanted to direct, because I’ve seen how hard it is. You see Marty Scorsese or Ridley Scott or Sam Mendes on the set, and you’re like, “man, that is hard work.” But this is a very personal story. I chose to write a very personal script about what it is to be a queer character in a horror movie. I love horror movies, and I always loved them growing up. But gay characters in horror movies when I was growing up were either nonexistent, or they were victims, or they were jokes, and that hurt me. So I decided to write this movie where there wouldn’t be one hero, there’d be seven of them. As I worked on it, it just became very, very personal to me. I’ve known Jason Blum for a while, and Jason is always very encouraging of first-time directors. So he gave me a little poke and off, I went to film.You talked about it being personal and obviously, you spent so much time on film sets. This film comes across as very confident. Why do you think that is? Is it the personal aspect? Is it being familiar with how films are made? What helped you on your debut here?It’s a couple of things. I’ve grown up on film sets, and when you’re there with Oliver Stone, Ridley Scott, and Marty Scorsese, you learn things. You learn how a film set operates. You learn how different directors work, and also, Peacock and Blumhouse were incredibly supportive. They knew I was a first-time director. They gave me time to rehearse. They gave me extra prep time, all the things I needed to be prepared so when I walked on the set and started working with the actors, I was confident. Also, it was a very personal story, so I knew what I wanted to say with it, and I knew how I wanted to interact with the actors.MORE: Interview: Xochitl Gomez Reflects on Doctor Strange 2, Entering the MCUI found the setting so interesting. Obviously like the idea of a gay conversion camp being progressive is just a total oxymoron, and it’s proven false throughout the film, but I thought that initial veneer where Kevin Bacon’s character is very friendly and they’re kind of painting it as, “Hey, we accept you” was such a different expectation from what I was coming in with. So can you speak to that aspect and starting off with that very strangely non-religious veneer that they start off with?Yeah, it’s a great act of misdirection. The fact that the villain of the piece that Kevin Bacon plays is speaking in very contemporary, woke, new age language about gender issues is very surprising for the characters, and very comforting in a way to throw them off-balance. Because one of the tactics of so-called conversion therapy is to unsettle … to unsettle the principles you’re trying to convert. And it’s very unsettling because they get off that bus expecting it to be Bible-thumping and queer-bashing, and it’s not. It’s very reasonable. It’s an old narrative trick in every haunted house movie. When you first move into the house in Amityville, it’s not so bad! It’s kind of pretty. And then it gets worse and worse and worse, and it’s a way to increase the tension and the pressure on the characters.I love the scene with the P!nk song “F*cking Perfect.” How’d you determine that was the song to use there?I love that song, I love P!nk. I wrote the book to the stage version of Moulin Rouge, where we used P!nk, and so P!nk was in my head a lot. Honestly, I just know how much it would’ve meant to me when I was 10 and in the closet and scared of being gay … what it would’ve meant for someone to say with confidence and power and love “you are effing perfect just the way you are.” So it just seemed [like] the right moment in the story for that.There is a rich history of queer horror films, and this is one of the bigger budgeted ones and has such a huge impact releasing on Peacock. So what does it mean for you to have this platform and to add to that tradition?As you say, it’s a growing tradition that I’m very excited about, because it did not exist 20 years ago. It did not exist 10 years ago, but now the world is ready and eager for these stories to celebrate diversity, racial diversity, gender diversity, sexual preference diversity, in a really exciting way. So to get to be part of that story, part of that continuum of queer horror, is incredibly exciting. The fact that it’s on Peacock so people can stream it all over the country, and soon all over the world, is very gratifying because I hope, first and foremost, it’s a very entertaining horror movie — but it’s a horror movie with a point and with a purpose, which is compassion and empathy. Which is very important, particularly nowadays.

Mojtaba Sadira

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