The Transfiguration (2017) Review
Unconventional vampire movie about a boy who meets a girl.
The Transfiguration is a 2017 horror film about a troubled teen with a fascination about vampire lore, who bonds with a girl, blurring fantasy into reality.
It’s not easy to find anything innovative in the vampire genre, the movies sapping the lore dry with endless takes on the macabre to romance and everything in-between. Yet here comes Michael O’Shea‘s new film The Transfiguration, which may not break entirely new ground, but its exploration of what vampirism is certainly compels in an atmospheric, character study that bends expectations.
Milo (Eric Ruffin) is a distant youth. Bullied at school and totally friendless, the fourteen-year-old is obsessed with death and blood, a collection of vampire video cassette tapes crowding his bedroom shelves and his browser history packed with clips of animals hunting and eating each other to slaughterhouse documentaries. We meet him first in a train station bathroom literally sucking the blood out of a dead man’s neck before stoically walking into the night, seemingly burdened by his nature. He lives with his older brother (Aaron Moten), a war vet apparently suffering from PSTD, and seems ready to make the choice to live his life in total isolation, feeding on blood. Then he meets Sophie (Chloe Levine), herself a social pariah, a cutter who allows boys to abuse her. The two make a connection and as he develops more ‘normal’ human behaviors, becomes haunted by the death in his past.
O’Shea’s feature film debut is meant to raise questions and a number come up as he tackles a whole host of issues from loneliness, obsession, romance, coming of age, suicide, and more. Milo is a deeply troubled boy who is convinced of what he is, colluding his mind with a deluge of horrifying imagery and a need to feast once a month, something he does well away from his neighborhood, heading to New York City to find victims. We learn he has a dark history, his parents both dead, and mention of his killing of small animals. O’Shea, who also wrote the screenplay, let’s Milo breakdown the tropes of the genre, explaining to Sophie what he believes a real vampire is and the film journeys through Milo’s hard world, seemingly giving excuses for why he is detached as he is, including local gangs that hover near his apartment.
Stripped down bare, The Transfiguration follows Milo for nearly every frame, developing him through interlocking set pieces as he walks about the film with his black book bag. Ruffin is a quiet presence, and gives Milo small, deliberate movements with rarely a change in his expression. Milo is initially unaware of the effects Sophie is having on him, a humanity within him clawing at the monster lurking under his skin. There are jarring, sudden moments of brutality that force him (and us) to consider what he is and if he is worthy of change. It’s a calculated tug-of-war.
Others are equally good. Both Levine and Moten find good moments, with Moten especially surprising in a role that begins as one thing and ends in another. O’Shea is committed to the title and slowly peels away layers of Milo as Sophie and his brother come to redefine him, and all the while we wonder about the premise. Milo constantly complains of vampire books and movies being unrealistic and while O’Shea plays with the clichés, there is a path he’s on that keeps you guessing to the final frame. Far removed from the genre it continually refers to, The Transfiguration is a haunting little tale of self-revelation, love, and honesty.
The Transfiguration (2017) Review
Movie description: The Transfiguration is a 2017 horror film about a troubled teen with a fascination about vampire lore, who bonds with girl, blurring fantasy into reality.
Director(s): Michael O'Shea
Actor(s): Eric Ruffin, Chloe Levine, Jelly Bean
Genre: Drama, Horror