T Blockers


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

T Blockers
"A deceptively smart, layered piece of work."

Alice Maio Mackay is 18-years-old and this is her third feature film, screening in the 2023 line-ups of both Outfest and Fantasia. She’s also made a TV series and multiple shorts. There’s a prodigious talent there, but perhaps more importantly, there’s visible improvement in each thing she does. T-Blockers may at first look amateurish, but it’s a deceptively smart, layered piece of work which packs a lot of story and observation into just 74 minutes.

At the heart of it is Sophie (Lauren Last), a struggling young filmmaker working on a horror movie and scraping a living with the help of donations from her guilty, alcoholic police officer dad. We first meet her when she’s going on a date with Adam (Stanley Browning), a young man who seems sweet and slightly bashful and doesn’t have a problem with the fact that she’s trans. Adam has a secret, however, and when Sophie finds out she’s dismayed, retreating to her apartment to drink, smoke cigarettes and do coke with her flatmate until she throws up. Adam, meanwhile, is approached by a shadowy cabal who talk him through the experience of rejection and, through a combination of mentoring and waterboarding, recruit him into their incel cult.

Copy picture

Something happens to Sophie that night. She has violent dreams about cannibalism and develops a form of what is described as ECP – extra cynical perception – which makes her feel queasy anytime she’s in proximity to someone affected by brain worms. Though she tries to focus on her career, meeting with a producer called Zen who drinks decaf soy lattes and says ‘ciao,’ she is becoming aware that she may have another calling. An old video warns of a curse unleashed by a recent earthquake. In the background, radio announcers talk about the water being contaminated. Discussion of a law which will classify supporting trans kids as child abuse adds to the sense of dislocation, of something unnatural at work, whilst binding the film’s supernatural elements tightly to the present day real world experiences of minority groups.

It’s cleverly structured, its sharp observations and irreverent humour ensuring that it never seems twee, and Mackay is careful not to overplay her hand. There’s some great dialogue, and along the way characters reveal the collective noun for Karens and take a deftly unactionable swipe at a certain children’s book author. The warmth between inhabitants of Sophie’s local queer club makes them easy to root for, and just in case you get confused, purple lighting for the good guys and green for the bad guys provides direction in old-fashioned Hollywood style.

Mackay isn’t quite as assured when it comes to the action sequences, but is smart enough not to bite off more than she can chew, so she gets away with it. A new romantic interest for Sophie does away with the stereotypical notion of trans lives as inherently tragic, but as our heroine comes to find herself in a more powerful position, she has new ethical difficulties to deal with and needs to think carefully about what sort of person she wants to be. The framing of all this within a trashy science fiction story gives the real world horrors their due and enables the filmmaker to address some seriously dark issues in a film which remains lively and fun. If this sounds like your thing, you won’t want to miss it.

Reviewed on: 16 Jul 2023
Share this with others on...
T Blockers packshot
Ancient parasites rise from a small town, taking the most fearful and susceptible hosts. A young filmmaker finds herself as the only one who can sense the possessed resistance before the horror escapes and spreads.

Director: Alice Maio Mackay

Writer: Alice Maio Mackay, Benjamin Pahl Robinson

Starring: Joni Ayton-Kent, Lisa Fanto, Chris Asimos, Joe Romeo, Cassie Workman, Patty Glavieux, Stanley Browning, Etcetera Etcetera

Year: 2023

Country: Australia

Search database: