My attraction to horror movies goes deeper than enjoying the dopamine rush that comes from a well-made, scary film. Horror movies can broaden our horizons by introducing audiences to new people and places, inspiring us to learn and grow as individuals. Therefore, the work of Alice Maio Mackay, a teenage writer and director, is worth investigating. Set in a world that is unfamiliar to many but is home to her and her team, they are characterized by originality, visual flair, and exploration of themes of identity, belonging, and community. In addition to being a transgender woman, she is a storyteller from a community experiencing sharp, growing pains. Accordingly, the Australian filmmaker’s latest movie, T Blockers, is a schlocky sci-fi shocker that, through the magic of the medium, exposes audiences to the travails of transgender youth.

T Blockers is an Australian trans horror film directed, co-produced, and co-written by a 17-year-old trans and neurodivergent woman, shot with a predominantly queer, non-binary, and trans cast and crew. Mackay’s story focuses on Sophie (Laura Last), a young trans movie maker, transitioning to her new life, juggling work, and trying to make her movie. When her town becomes infested with parasites that cause the infected to act violently, she finds herself thrust into a new role: “She leads the resistance against the mysterious parasites that possess the town’s most fearful and susceptible residents amidst growing hostility towards the LGBTQ+ community.”


TBlockers 2023

Besides telling the story of humans fighting monsters, the movie also offers a glimpse into the lives of transgender youth in Australia. Despite its humble budget, Mackey’s short feature achieves plenty by using creative storytelling flourishes. Mackay’s references to independent, low-budget filmmakers of the past, such as schlock director Ed Wood and DIY, low-budget SOV (shot-on-video) films, offer clues to the origins of her desire to make movies. The creativity and passion of these directors, who could make interesting motion pictures on a shoestring budget, probably inspired her own movies.

T Blockers utilizes the story-within-a-story device to add additional layers. The picture begins with Sophie writing the script for a scene based on her presenting herself as a woman to her family, a moment to which Mackay will return. Later, she and her roommate Spencer (Lewi Dawson) sit down to watch an SOV movie that predicts the attack of the parasites. Obviously, Sophie feels a kinship with the heroine of the video and dons a similar outfit for her last confrontation with the leader of the parasite-infected men. At this point, the story’s meta-narrative comes full circle as Sophie, who has been both the subject and object of the film’s exploration of violence, finally takes control of her own story by directing her own film about the attack.


T Blockers 2023

Another layer where T Blockers works well is the depiction of the lives of transgender youth. The website for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a charitable organization devoted to improving the well-being of children, states that LGBTQ+ youth experience greater rates of rejection, violence, suicide, and homelessness than their peers in the general population. All of these issues arise during discussions between Sophie and her friends.

Beyond the day-to-day difficulties they experience, there is another hardship thrust upon the LGTBQ+ population: their public demonization as a way for politicians to win votes. By April 2023, American politicians, often backed by conservative, fundamental Christian groups, will have introduced over 400 bills to state legislation “that restrict fundamentals like health care, education, and the freedom of expression for LGBTQ+ people.” (SOURCE).

Feeling downcast by all the negative pressures, Sophie laments, “What’s the use of knowing who I am if I can’t be myself?”


T Blockers 2023

T Blockers, Alice Maio Mackay’s third film, is a success on many levels. She shows exceptional cinematic craftsmanship: well-framed scenes, clearly written characters and dialogue, and the ability to incorporate real-world issues into her cinematic universe. The unknown cast rises to the occasion of their complicated characters, bringing them to life with vivid familiarity. Maybe there was too much pink neon, but not enough to slow the fast-paced story. Despite the wisecracks and gooey special effects, the feature is a serious plea for understanding, support, or at least respect for the transgender community. In the final scene, horror movie hostess Cryptessa (drag performer Etcetera Etcetera), who acts as a Greek chorus, directly addresses the audience and invites them to think about the question, “Are you who you really think you are?” Mackay’s film suggests the answer can be found by examining which beasts inside ourselves we choose to feed.


We watched T Blockers as part of the lineup for the 2023 FrightFest.

FrightFest 2023

Violence against the LGTBQ+ community is real and pervasive.
Help is available:

The Trevor Project: The Trevor Project is a national organization that provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youth. They also have a helpline for LGBTQ+ victims of violence. You can call them at 1-866-488-7386 or chat with them online at

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD): GLAAD is an organization that works to promote LGBTQ+ acceptance. They have a resource center that provides information and support to LGBTQ+ victims of violence. You can visit their website at

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