T-Blockers Review | Trans Horror Hits Hard Despite Weak Plot

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The newly released Australian queer horror film T-Blockers presents a colorful punk-rock portrayal of the trans experience, which steals the show from the underlying horror plot. Perhaps the most impressive part about T-Blockers is that it was made by then-17-year-old Alice Maio Mackay, a young trans newcomer in the film industry who directed and co-wrote the script. Mackay uses the horror genre to make biting social commentary on LGBT+ issues in the third film of her career, and she particularly excels at the stylistic colors, energetic soundtrack, and punk-feminist tone of the movie. However, certain aspects of the horror plot were sacrificed to make way for in-depth social commentary, making the story feel rushed.




T-Blockers shines best as an example of the perfect pairing: the horror genre and the LGBT+ experience. There is also a thread of meta-commentary that starts right at the beginning, when the fantastic Australian drag queen Etcetera Etcetera, acting as the narrator of a film within the movie, tells the audience: “The film you are about to see is a work of fantastic fiction, but it’s realer than you think.” This is a large theme of the T-Blockers, which touches on many pressing social issues of our modern cultural climate. In a nice call-back to the 1973 film Last House on the Left, Etcetera Etcetera reminds viewers that it’s only a movie — but is it?


The plot follows Sophie, a young trans director who is struggling with her new life being out as a trans woman, her attempts to direct a movie, and the growing threat of an increased alt-right presence in her small Australian town. Along with her best friend and roommate Spencer and a vibrant supporting cast, Sophie begins to realize that many young men in her town are succumbing to a brain worm that turns them into mindless zombie-like creatures who are hunting members of the LGBT+ community.


The Trans Experience Blends Perfectly With the Horror Genre

T-Blockers

T Blockers

3.5/5

Release Date
March 5, 2024

Director
Alice Maio Mackay

Cast
Chris Asimos , Joni Ayton-Kent , Stanley Browning , Lewi Dawson

Runtime
74 Minutes

Writers
Alice Maio Mackay , Benjamin Pahl Robinson

Pros

  • The character development and relationships work well in T-Blockers.
  • T-Blockers effectively conveys the feeling of fear that many trans people feel every day.
Cons

  • Some horror elements were sacrificed in order to dive deep into social commentary, leading to a rushed story.
  • Some of the film’s messages are too on the nose.

The horror genre has long been a poignant tool for social commentary. From Romero’s 1968 film Night of the Living Dead to Jordan Peele redefining modern horror with his exploration of race and “otherness,” horror has a stalwart history as the leading genre for deconstructing social issues. Horror delights in transgressing boundaries, questioning what is considered normal or culturally accepted at every turn, and living at odds with any kind of classification. The genre thrives best when it makes the subjective experience real — giving form, figure, and tangibility to things often considered abstract, intangible, and even impossible to communicate.


Horror films affect audiences best when they induce a feeling of discomfort and unease. In sharing the trans experience, T-Blockers manages to communicate the constant feeling of fear that many trans individuals live with on a daily basis. One particular haunting example is when Sophie and Spencer leave a bar and comment on the fact that they always have to look over their shoulder every time they leave a place, much like a protagonist in a horror film. The threat is vague, everywhere and, yet, nowhere specifically.

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In director Mackay’s story, literal brain worms are infecting the minds of impressionable young men. This is handled in a more subtle and nuanced way than it could have been. The main antagonist, Adam, doesn’t necessarily start as a bad guy. He is a “chaser,” someone who fetishizes trans women — gross, but not quite the villain that he later becomes.

It’s only when Adam crosses paths with an extremist alt-right man that he is infected with brain worms, not at all unlike the way internet memes and exposure to extremist groups online can “infect” the minds of young people today. It is easier to understand an abstract concept like this when it is externalized and given form. It’s easier to fight such a thing, too, when it has a physical existence that can firmly, definitively be beaten. Mackay manages to transform this very real yet abstract experience into a horror villain that the queer protagonists can finally confront and overcome.


Colorful Punk Rock Style, but Lacking in Story

There is something about the punk style that feels unfinished, thrown together, and apathetic to how it is received. T-Blockers is careful to spend time developing the characters, especially the heartwarming friendship between Sophie and Spencer, as well as the personal struggles Sophie wrestles with as she deals with coming out in a harsh and rigid world. Less care was given to the horror plot, though, which suffers from awkward exposition and pacing issues. Many important elements of the plot are mentioned so late into the film that it feels like they are just an afterthought.


Much of the messaging is very blunt, as well. Sophie is often wearing trans-positive messaging on her clothes, including a sweatshirt that says “Horror is queer,” which comes off a bit too on-the-nose within a queer horror film. The eventual fight between the protagonists and the brain-dead worm zombies feels too easy for the inexperienced girls — they never seem to struggle to kill their larger foes, most of whom aren’t actively fighting back at all. The sound design is also awkward, shifting between overly loud music and quiet dialogue.

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From such a young director, however, T-Blockers remains impressive despite these shortcomings. The visual style and use of color is downright fantastic. The characters are compelling and emotional, making their struggles engaging even when the fights themselves feel too easy — by that point, the heroes probably deserve “easy” anyway.


Sophie is a protagonist who finds her normal life becoming weird to her as her weird life becomes normal. The film intentionally flips the meaning of “strange” and “normal,” leaving Sophie as the hero who feels like an outsider, reflecting the transgender experience. Much like the fictional film within T-Blockers, Mackay made this movie with a clear intention: to warn society about a real threat to real trans people. Mackay is a promising talent with a lot to say, and her future endeavors will surely be impressive. In the meantime, heed the final words of the film: “Keep your eyes on the abyss.”

From One Manner Productions, T-Blockers will be released on Mar. 5, 2024, courtesy of Dark Star Pictures. You can watch the trailer below:


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