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The Transfiguration: Vampire Coming of Age Story
is surrounded by social pathologies, but he is convinced he is the monster.
Frankly, that is exactly the goal the under-sized teen set for himself. His
obsession with vampires has evolved from YouTube videos to real world blood-sucking.
Yet, just as he is about to embrace the solitary life of a night-stalker, he
unexpectedly develops a personal, possibly romantic relationship in Michael O’Shea’s
The Transfiguration (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
an orphan, Milo lives in the dubious care of his older brother Lewis, a veteran
most likely suffering from PTSD. It is Milo who does responsible adult things,
like paying the bills, to the extent they get done at all. In hopes of
hastening an undead transformation, he feeds on blood once a month—usually in
Manhattan, a safe distance from his Rockaway housing project. Trying to eschew
patterns, he usually waits for opportunities to present themselves, like the
perv in the opening scene.
Milo’s vampire obsession is rooted in an acute sense of alienation. Still
grieving his late mother, he routinely runs the gauntlet of gang-affiliated
bullies prowling the project grounds. That is why he is so surprised when
Sophie, the new white girl in the building, rather takes a liking to him. After
the untimely death of her parents, she has been sent to live with her Chester-Molester
grandfather, a few floors from Milo. Even though her idea of vampires comes
from Twilight, she finds Milo’s
weirdness appealing rather than off-putting. As Milo starts to behave more “human”
around her, he clearly takes stock of the murders, both those committed by him
and the thugs Lewis used to run with before his military service.
nauseating predictability, some critics who only care about identity politics
have questioned whether O’Shea, a white guy, can faithfully tell the story of
an African American teen, such as Milo. Presumably, he has never exsanguinated
the blood from a dying body either, so does that mean he also lacks the
legitimacy to make a vampire movie? In any event, he portrays Milo and Lewis in
smart, sensitive terms. In a sense, Transfiguration
is like Sleight or Fresh (also helmed by a white dude),
with vampirism taking the place of magic or chess. However, predatory
bloodsucking is by its nature considerably messier, in both practical and
ethical terms, as Milo learns full well.
his preternatural babyface, Eric Ruffin broods like nobody’s business as the
tightly wound Milo. He also develops some endearingly awkward chemistry with
Chloe Levine’s Sophie. She too gives an unusually subtle and grounded
performance, quietly projecting a sense of her lingering pain. Yet, it is Aaron
Moten who really springs the trap on the audience, lulling us into taking big
brother Lewis for granted and then gob-smacking us down the stretch in scenes
where he imparts some brotherly wisdom onto Milo that really give deeper meaning
to the entire film.
Milo refers to Let the Right One In,
which is not a completely inapt comparative. They are both moody,
character-driven stories of young people coming to terms with vampirism, but
they travel in diametrically opposite directions. In any event, O’Shea deserves
credit for his realistic, bordering on naturalistic approach. This is
definitely the road less traveled when it comes to vampire movies, but he
proves it can indeed be fertile ground. Enthusiastically recommended, The Transfiguration opens this Friday
(4/7) in New York, at the Angelika Film Center.
Labels: Vampire films