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Fantasia ’23 Movie Review: “T BLOCKERS” is political punk horror

Tuesday, August 29, 2023 | Reviews


Starring Lauren Last, Lewi Dawson and Lisa Fanto
Directed by Alice Maio Mackay
Written by Alice Maio Mackay and Erin Paterson
One Manner Productions

In Australian filmmaker Alice Maio Mackay’s T BLOCKERS, a vigilante gang of queer and trans creatives hunts those that violently seek to erase their existence. With its neon-drenched whirlwind of campy sets, zingy barbs and cryptic gothic monologues delivered by drag queen Etcetera Etcetera, T BLOCKERS makes its roots in the New Queer Cinema explicit. While Gregg Araki (referenced in the first ten minutes) and the gritty dayglo aesthetics of his Teenage Apocalypse trilogy loom large, more subtle nods to Cheryl Dunye, Angela Robinson, and Jamie Babbitt are sprinkled throughout. There is also a notable attempt to capture the confidence of John Waters‘ early films in refusing to let budgetary limitations restrict energy, vision or shock value.

During a first date between emerging filmmaker Sophie (Lauren Last) and Adam (Stanley Browning), sweetness turns sour when a notification on his phone reveals he’s a “chaser” (a term colloquially ascribed to men who fetishize trans women). Rather than wallow, Sophie and her roommate, Spencer (Lewi Dawson) get trashed and send him a spicy rejection text. Feeling scorned, Adam gets recruited by a gang of transphobic men’s rights advocates who baptize him in parasitic neon goo that imbues members with a single-minded cannibalistic hunger for queer and trans-human prey. 

If the whole film sounds like a zany and abstract pastiche of genre cues, that’s because it is (the plot also manages to squeeze in a film-within-a-film framing narrative that is often confusing but wraps on a moving note). Formally, one has to have a certain appetite for DIY filmmaking aesthetics that are deliberately unpolished. Despite this stylistic grit, T BLOCKERS anchors its rough edges in Last and Dawson’s friendship that feels lived-in, like a queerer Frances Ha by way of zombie films and revenge horror. 

The politics of T BLOCKERS are responsive to a moment in which trans rights are significantly under threat and collective political action is vital. Though full of larger-than-life artifice, the film’s scariest, most sobering moments are torn from frank reality: a man in a queer bar yelling vitriolic hate speech, men’s rights rallies, violence against trans people and the apathy of police.   

Despite connections to a growing body of contemporary social horror films, T BLOCKERS leverages its messiness advantageously to resist being tidily packaged and consumed. There’s a lot going on, but if viewers can embrace the chaos, they’ll be rewarded by its lingering complexities.

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