‘T Blockers’ Director Alice Maio Mackay On Worms And Greg Araki

T Blockers

While Alice Maio Mackay’s third feature film T Blockers is all about ancient worms and green slime, it’s also her most grounded work, telling a story about a young trans woman just trying to exist in the world. Her most assured work to date, Mackay crafts a fascinating and incredibly punk world that’s a crucial piece of trans cinema.

Read the full synopsis below:

In small-town Australia, a nightmare is brewing. Sophie is a young filmmaker obsessed with finding a thought-to-be long-lost film. Meanwhile, an earthquake unleashes ancient parasites in the area that thrive on hatred, causing outbursts of violence. Now Sophie and her friends, struggling with dating and their undesirable jobs, must also face off against an ancient evil that spreads like wildfire.

Dread Central spoke with Mackay about her third feature film, making her version of the hangout movie, and how Kevin Smith inspired her as a filmmaker.

Dread Central: Where did this film idea come from for you, especially in the chronology of your rapid-fire filmography? 

Alice Maio Mackay: Yeah, I mean, with So Vam and Bad Girl Boogey, they’re both different subgenres in the horror world and also both films that take place in high school. They’re explicitly queer, but the transness isn’t always at the forefront. So I think, I don’t know, after making those films, I wanted to make a film where I have a trans lead character and also explore something that was a bit different from slashers and vampires. And I never really explored the sci-fi worm genre before either. So that fit really well with the story I wanted to tell.

DC: Yeah, I like that. The sci-fi worm genre. That’s my new favorite subgenre. Well, I’m glad you say that though, because in watching this, I know it’s a sci-fi horror movie, but it feels so grounded. It feels like a 90s punk Greg Araki movie about kids smoking cigarettes and getting wasted and throwing up in a basement. And we can all relate to that to some degree. I’d love to hear where you gleaned inspiration for those portions of the film that feel like a cool teen drama from the 90s.

AMM: Yeah, totally. I mean, I don’t know, especially with this film, I wanted it to feel like a hangout drama film with elements of horror thrown in rather than it being a horror film with the coming-of-age elements. 

And you mentioned Greg Araki, I have a Doom Generation tattoo. I remember watching a video of his a few years ago talking about his films and saying how he’s interested to see what happens in trans cinema. Also, Kevin Smith’s Mallrats and stuff like that really inspired me. As much as it is a horror film, I did want it to feel very grounded, especially with the relationship and friendship between the two leads. I think having a trans person and a non-binary person being friends is a relationship, you don’t often see, let alone two characters in the same film. I think that is one of those beautiful aspects of life when you have a friendship like that.

DC: I love their friendship and how they just exist in their apartment. And I was curious about the casting for this, especially for Sophie and Spencer.

AMM: Yeah, so Lewi Dawson in Spencer. They were in Bad Girl Boogey, and I worked with them on a TV show a few years ago. I knew I wanted to work with them in a larger capacity. So I wrote the role for them in mind. And then when it came to Sophie, I didn’t really know who to cast. I was looking interstate because there weren’t a lot of trans women actors in Adelaide at the time. Lauren Last was a mutual friend of a friend and I think she just sent in a self-tape. She was kind of perfect, but [she and Lewi] didn’t meet until the first day of filming, which is doing that bedroom dialogue. So their chemistry was so crazy and so natural. I’m glad it worked out that way.

DC: That’s so cool. I was going to say they looked like they had been friends. Their vibe is so good. I love Lauren’s performance. Again, it feels very natural. What was it like for you to create Sophie as a character?

AMM: The very first scene that I wrote was the bedroom scene that literally pretty much opens T Blockers. I just wanted to include things in films that you wouldn’t always see, and especially make a film not just for trans audiences to enjoy, but to show people things that are specific to trans women that you don’t really see represented. So I knew that I wanted to not have her transition be the focus of the film, but also still mention it because that is still part of her life. So she has that transness still very much in her life. And she also has a personality and she also has fun and romance and a career and all these different things rather than just one or the other.

DC: I want to pivot a little over to the body horror because while I love the groundedness, this is also really gross, nasty body horror. And there is a particularly gooey baptism, as I would like to call it, where a man is dunked into Goo. I would just love to hear more about how you filmed that and staged it.

AMM: Because a lot of T Blockers is centered around hanging out, I wanted to take the horror elements to the most extreme we could make it. Because at the end of the day, I still want those shocking elements and they do occur. Yeah, I mean that barrel, it wasn’t actually filled with goo. We had a second layer up just because there was no way we could fill up the full barrel.

But yeah, he was just fully going for it. He dunked his head under and was like, “I’ll just tap out when I need to be lifted up.” And I was like, “You know what you do you,” I mean commitment to the role. It was crazy. It’s just embedded in his skin. It’s all over him. And then when he takes out the teeth, those are someone’s teeth basically. The makeup artist said you can just hold them but he said, “No, I’m going to vomit it out.” And I was like, “You know what? This is all your choice.” But yeah, it was crazy

DC: Really committing to the role.

AMM: Oh yeah.

DC: That’s incredible. In terms of the horror aspect, which more traditional genre films influenced the camper, gorier side of T Blockers?

AMM: To be honest, there weren’t a lot of horror films that inspired T Blockers. I mean, aside from Buffy, Yoga Hosers was a big inspiration, which is such a weird thing to say. I feel I just tanked my career.

DC: I love that

AMM: It was my first gateway into Kevin Smith. But when I was 10 or 11, I remember watching it when I stayed home from school. I dunno, I just thought it was a beautiful film about female friendship. It’s funny, it’s coming of age, just witty. It’s a great combination of all these different genres.

DC: So what’s next? Satranic Panic is coming out soon. It’s hitting festivals this year.

AMM: Yeah, we just signed the distributor. So that should be coming up the middle of the year at the latest, I think.

DC: And then what else are you working on? I know there’s Carnage For Christmas.

AMM: Yeah. Which is editing at the moment. We should have a premiere date very publicly, very soon. It’ll be done in 10 days.

DC: Congratulations.

AMM: Thanks. Yeah, I’ll be happy when it’s done. But I do think that’s my favorite thing I’ve done at the moment. 

DC: So you’ve made so many movies. What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned so far as a young, queer, trans filmmaker? 

AMM: I don’t know. Each film is where I’m at in life, especially making these films so young. When you watch So Vam, it’s a kid looking up to a trans woman, and by the third film, I wanted to center that trans woman as a lead. In terms of learning, I guess the industry is a lot more backward than people would like to think. 

T Blockers is out now on VOD.



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