The Block Island Sound Explained-Toxoplasmosis And Is It A True Story?
There is something very wrong in this New England town. Beyond that, it’s hard to describe what is going on in The Block Island Sound. Everything is just off. What starts as an aquatic horror morphs into a haunting and possession, only to swerve at the last minute and become something….more. Whether you view the film as an allegory for familiar mental illness or environmental ills, or at face value, it is like nothing you have ever seen. The McManus brothers Kevin and Matthew have put together a bone-chilling film that is just as frigid and desolate as the island for which the film is titled.
It’s the kind of terrible eeriness that makes your skin crawl and the hairs on the back of your neck tingle. In much the same way that Relic and Amulet both dealt with aging parents and the inherent fear of facing your mortality, The Block Island Sound explores the impact these life events have on those forced to watch and wonder what fate has in store for them.
Something is killing the fish in the ocean in New England by the ton. Tom(Neville Archambault) is an older fisherman and father to two adult children. He has been experiencing memory problems and acting strangely. Harry(Chris Sheffield) lives with Tom, while his sisters have moved away. Audry(Michaela McManus) is in town with Paul, her assistant, and her daughter to investigate the mass fish deaths. The siblings know something is wrong, but their guilt and resentment get in the way of working through a solution. They initially think Tom is simply getting older. Unfortunately, before they can come to terms with their father’s recent decline, he goes missing and is later found dead. In the days following his death, Harry begins to suffer from the same problems as his father and loses touch with reality. What is real and what is imagined?
Is The Block Island Sound based on a true story?
While the film is not based on any specific environmental disaster, events like the fish deaths and bird calamity that Harry’s conspiracy-loving friend Dale mentioned are events that happen all the time. Drought, temperature changes, and algae bloom all contribute to these sorts of incidents in the oceans. Birds die in mass because of long-term starvation. Environmental changes in the temperature and food sources can cause entire flocks to perish all around the world. In the Western US, 80% of songbirds fell dead out of the sky.
Additionally, a quick peek at the internet reveals more than a few conspiracy nuts out there. Dale is not as unusual as he seems. There might be more Dale’s than we realize. In a study done by Forbes Magazine, nearly a quarter of all American’s believe most crazy conspiracies have some truth to them. Dale may be eccentric, but he isn’t as quirky as he seems. Likely everyone knows a Dale or two.
What is Toxoplasmosis?
At the beginning of the film, Dale is telling Harry about Toxoplasmosis and its effects on animal brains. This parasitic disease is a result of exposure to the parasite Toxoplasma gondii. Cat feces and contaminated foods are typically where one is exposed. Symptoms include muscle pain, headaches, fever, and fatigue. If the infection is left untreated in severe cases, encephalitis, seizures, and blindness are possible. It also has been linked to several mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Dale talks about animals with toxoplasmosis losing their inherent fears and instincts. Harry is also losing pieces of himself. This is all a red herring, though.
What Happened to Harry?
After Tom’s disappearance and death, Harry begins to fall apart. He has anger issues, resentment for days, and raging substance abuse problems. He appears to be losing his grip on reality and losing time, just like his father did. Is this a simple case of familiar addiction, or is there something evil in the water? He begins hallucinating sounds and has dreams about things living in his body. Worse still, he sees his father everywhere. Is Tom communicating from the grave? Is there something in the water or is Tom haunting Harry, looking for a weak point so he can possess him?
Harry feels intensely guilty for not doing more to protect his father and now is worried it is happening to him. Harry complains of headaches, fatigue, and memory deficits. A doctor thinks he has electromagnetic sensitivity. This is what Better Call Saul’s Chuck McGill claims he has. His nightmares get worse, and his behavior more erratic. It would be easy to write off all of Harry’s behavior as mental illness, substance abuse, or grief psychosis, but in the end, he is being controlled by an unknown force just like his father.
What Happens at the end of The Block Island Sound?
Audry goes to question a man who supposedly is struggling with the same affliction as her brother. The doctor in the hospital suggested he might have electromagnetic sensitivity. She is looking for answers, but she only got more paranoid questions. The man says he doesn’t have sensitivity; he is hiding from whatever is out there. He describes feeling exactly as Harry has said he feels. The man tells Audry she needs to get Harry away from that place immediately before it forces Harry to hurt someone.
Some unseen entity wants to know what makes humans tick. Harry tries to resist the voice telling him to hurt his niece and instead attacks a woman after a car accident. When the woman escapes, he returns home, knocks out Paul, and takes Emily out on the boat. Audry jumps on the boat, too, and in the middle of the ocean, everything is pulled into the air again. Harry didn’t imagine that. Emily manages to stay in the boat, but Audry and Harry are both pulled upward. The film closes with Audry being dropped back into the ocean and her voiceover from earlier about what she does for a living to help the environment. What does it all mean?
There really is something out there. Something more powerful, Humans get used to thinking we are at the top of the food chain; we forget there are other Apex predators. There may even be some we don’t know about yet. To them, we are test subjects to study. As Audrey puts it, some brave fish have to be studied so humans can help all fish. In Block Island Sound, we are the fish, and there is something more intelligent and stronger than we are. Why did it throw Audry back? I guess she just wasn’t a big enough fish.
As the TV/Streaming Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre tv. I grew up with old school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. When I’m not watching and writing about my favorite movies and series, I’m introducing my family to the wonderful world of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. My only regret, there is not enough time in the day to watch everything.