Interview: 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 set in a conversion camp. Logan discussed the growing trend of queer horror and what it’s like to direct your first film.

“Kevin Bacon stars as 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 designed to ‘help them find a new sense of freedom.'” As the camp’s methods become increasingly psychologically disturbing, 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 you wanted to direct one day, or is it a more recent ambition?

John Logan: No, I’ve never wanted to direct because I’ve seen how difficult it is. You see Marty Scorsese or Ridley Scott or Sam Mendes on set and you’re like, “Man, that’s 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 film. I love horror movies and I always loved them growing up. But gay characters in horror movies when I was growing up were either non-existent 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 would be seven of them. As I was working on it, it just became very, very personal to me. I’ve known Jason Blum for a while, and Jason is always very encouraging to first-time directors. So he gave me a little poke and then I went to film.

You talked about it being personal, and obviously you spent so much time filming. This film comes across as very confident. Why do you think that is? Is it the personal aspect? Is it to be familiar with how movies are made? What helped you on your debut here?

It’s a few things. I grew up on film sets, and when you’re there with Oliver Stone, Ridley Scott and Marty Scorsese, you learn things. You will learn how a film set works. You learn how different directors work, and Peacock and Blumhouse were also incredibly supportive. They knew I was a first-time instructor. They gave me time to practice. They gave me extra prep time, all the things I needed to be prepared, so when I went on set and started working with the actors, I was confident. It was also 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.

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I found the setting so interesting. Obviously, the idea of ​​a gay conversion camp being progressive is just a total oxymoron and it’s proven false throughout the movie, but I thought that the first veneer where Kevin Bacon’s character is very friendly and they paint it as, “Hey, we accept you” was such a different expectation than what I came in with. So can you talk about that aspect and start with the very strange non-religious veneer that they start with?

Yes, this is a big misdirection. The fact that the villain in the play, played by Kevin Bacon, speaks in a very contemporary, awake, new age language about gender issues is very surprising to the characters and very comforting in a way that throws them off balance. Because one of the tactics of so-called conversion therapy is to unsettle… to unsettle the principles you are trying to convert. And it’s very disturbing because they get off that bus expecting it to be Bible-pounding and queer-bashing, and it’s not. It is very reasonable. It’s an old storytelling trick in any haunted house movie. Once you move into the house in Amityville, it’s not so bad! It’s kind of nice. 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 did you figure out that was the song to use there?

I love that song, I love P!nk. I wrote the book for 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 have meant to me when I was 10 and in the closet and afraid of being gay…what it would have meant to someone to say with confidence and power and love “you are just perfect the way you are.” So it just looked [like] the right moment in history for it.

There is a rich history of queer horror films and this is one of the bigger budgets and has such an impact on the release of Peacock. So what does it mean to 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 didn’t exist 20 years ago. It didn’t 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 history, part of that continuum of queer horror, is incredibly exciting. The fact that it’s on the Peacock so people can stream it across the country, and soon around the world, is very pleasing, because I hope first and foremost that it’s a very entertaining horror film – but it’s a horror film with a point and with a purpose which is compassion and empathy. Which is very important, especially nowadays.

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