Well now this looks interesting. Already, it’s got me hooked with being a dark vampire movie. Sort of. So the best I can understand the flick is that it’s about a young kid who takes a huge liking for Vampire movies and stories in general and starts to think that he’s a Vampire too. He falls for a girl his age and he’s got a presumably older brother whose purpose in the story is pretty hidden as of now. But I gotta say, I’m interested.
Here’s the on screen talent. Starring, we have Eric Ruffin, known for TV show THE GOOD WIFE, and Chloe Levine, known for TV show THE OA. I’d list the other actors, but I have no idea who they are and their importance to the story, so I’ll tackle that in the actual review.
Now for behind the scenes. Directing and writing is Michael O’Shea, making his feature film debut. Congrats, sir. Composing the score is Margaret Chardiet, making her feature film debut. Congrats, miss. Finally, the cinematographer is Sung Rae Cho, known for movies that I’ve never heard of and short films.
This is my honest opinion of: THE TRANSFIGURATION
Milo (Eric Ruffin) is not your typical teen growing up in a rough neighborhood. Though quiet and well-meaning, he hides a dark secret, believing himself to be a vampire and having already killed some people and drank their blood. He’s a loner and doesn’t have any friends until he meet another loner, a teen girl named Sophie (Chloe Levine). They strike up a relationship that starts off rocky at first, what with him showing her clips of cows getting slaughtered on the internet, but they eventually develop a unique connection as they figure out what their lives are all about.
I have to say, it’s not bad. It’s not great either, but this was worth the watch… for the most part. Yeah, this might take some explaining.
The movie opens up exactly how a vampire movie should open up: creepy as hell. It opens on Milo drinking blood from a dude’s neck in a bathroom stall and walks out like it’s just another Monday. And that’s what this movie does pretty well; its atmosphere. While you acknowledge that Milo isn’t necessarily a bad kid, you’re never quite comfortable around him, especially since he’s so quiet. But the strange thing is, it’s a weird blend of knowing exactly what’s on his mind, and not knowing what’s going on his mind at all, making Ruffin’s acting pretty much pitch perfect, which I think will go over a lot of people’s heads and call him bland and uninteresting. I hope that isn’t the case, I’ve barely looked at any reviews for this movie, but it would do my heart some good to know that I wasn’t the only one who thought this about him.
In fact, the acting from the core cast is actually pretty damn solid. I’ve already mentioned how Ruffin is good, but I think the real heart of the movie is Levine. On top of a smile that needs to be nominated for an Oscar, she’s got such a warm presence to counteract all the dark, gruesome, and discomfort. But that’s not to say that she’s a regular Mary Sue or anything. Quite the opposite, she’s got her own problems as well. She drinks, as most teenagers do, has sex with random boys, and cuts herself. She’s depressed, has an abusive family, all that stuff, yet still finds some way to be smiley and open to letting someone into her life and trusting him. In fact, this makes for a good segue, I think as much as Sophie loves Twilight – which she mentions, like, three times in this fuckin’ movie – that set of stories can take some serious notes from this movie. Milo and Sophie are absolutely adorable together. They have this wonderful connection that probably makes for the best scenes in the film. It’s probably the only real time you see Milo say more than a few words at any given time, even smile. You never get a genuine connection in Twilight like that. There is an innocence to their relationship and a tried and true happiness that they bring to each other and it’s incredibly sweet to watch.
This is a character-driven movie through-and-through, and in that regard, it succeeds surprisingly well. However, the movie isn’t without some bizarre flaws.
First of all, is this the only way to portray black kids? In rundown, sketchy neighborhoods who get bullied and beat up? This movie almost blatantly rips off the opening of MOONLIGHT (2016). Actually, I doubt it’s a cliché that’s hard to rip off from any other source tackling this subject. I doubt MOONLIGHT started the whole “black kid getting bullied in rough neighborhood” thing. Hell, KICKS (2016) came out before that and did the same damn scenario. Seriously, this sort of thing can’t happen in a middle-class neighborhood? Bullying exists no matter what social class you’re in. I suppose you could make the very real argument that this is supposed to be a setting where gang violence needs to be the norm, but again, that’s any neighborhood you go to and the effect would be the same. I suppose this isn’t necessarily a complaint, just a personal peeve, so I’ll move on to the genuine problems.
I don’t care how much of a social outcast someone is, there is no good reason for half the shit Milo does. Let me explain, when Milo sees Sophie cutting her wrist, he asks to see them. As she shows him, he immediately tries to taste her blood. I don’t care if you are a vampire or think you’re a vampire, neither excuses a downright creepy-as-hell action like that. In fact, for a movie that praises LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (2008) more than once, and bashes Twilight more than once, it certainly took a more than a couple pages out of Twilight’s formula. Milo and Sophie’s first hang out is eerily similar to when Edward reveals what he is to Bella in the woods and nearly every scene prior to that: giving her ample reasons to not be attracted to him. Milo’s first offense of trying to taste her blood should have been enough to walk away freaked out and never talk to him again. But no, she quickly forgives him. But then they decide to hang out longer and he takes her back to his home where they watch cows getting slaughtered! That’s when she decides that he’s too freaky to be around. And again, why does Milo show her that shit?! Why would he think that anyone would be interested in the same shit that he’s into? Show her a vampire movie, fine, you can accept that as fiction, but reality is a little different and harder to swallow, you dumb-ass! But of course, does she stay away from Milo forever? No! Of course not! You read my positives and know that I think very highly of their relationship. So one would assume that Milo did something to sway her opinion of him, right? He apologized for his weird behavior and she forgave him? Ha! Yeah, right. There’s a reason I made this comparison to Twilight. When she leaves Milo’s place, freaked out and all, the next time we see her again is a few scenes later where she spots him as he’s walking home and she immediately lights up, smiling, runs over to him all excitedly, and asks to walk home with him. It’s only during that walk where Milo apologizes for the cow-slaughter, which seems pretty needless considering how forgiving she is of him.
Also, a lot of random leaps in logic crop up too. There’s a scene where Milo says that he doesn’t know where his dead mother is buried. The next day, Sophie visits him and tells him that she found her burial site. Um… hi, movie! Remember me? The audience? Mind filling us in on how she found it?! It’s not like Milo ever says his last name or anything! Logic: what’s that? There’s also a stretch in time when he starts avoiding Sophie for no reason. He says that he’s not avoiding her, but he clearly is, and then they start randomly hanging out again… feeding back into why is Sophie so forgiving of Milo’s actions. Milo gets a guy killed because you think he’s going to drink his blood. But after getting the guy killed by some local gang punks, he just leave his body without tasting a single drop of blood from him. Milo, for some reason, can’t watch scenes in vampire movies where the vampire is drinking blood from a victim. Why? Never explained? Milo marks the days where he kills people down on his calendar. Why? Also never explained.
Now let’s talk about the ending, which is both a complaint, and a saving grace. So Milo follows this violent-prone drunk guy home. He sneaks into his home to obviously kill him, but quickly sees that he has a young daughter. For whatever damn reason, he kills her and starts drinking her blood. Already, this character became irredeemable and had a feeling that he was going to get a happy ending, despite not deserving it. He then kills the man, of course, and leaves. Thankfully, he comes to the decision at the end that if his life is just going to be hurting people, then he probably shouldn’t live. So he takes the money he’s been saving to Sophie to live with her cousin, and sets up events to get himself killed, where he’s actually killed. Thank you! Aware that the innocent life he ended violently didn’t deserve it and he needed to stop somehow.
Intriguingly, my interpretation of these events is that he was never a vampire at all, though I think this is a given. He’s a traumatized kid, mentally unstable, got hooked into vampire lore, and latched on to that as his reasoning for being what he is. While he says that, in his case anyway, vampires can walk in sunlight, eat garlic, it’s all pretty thin stuff. He vomits when he drinks too much blood, which is a real physical thing. Gets shot, and dies. Very much not like a vampire.
Overall, no, it’s not a great film and far too many problems hold it back from even being all that good. Logic being thrown out the window, a few too many clichés, and frustrating character choices all wound the film. But I can’t pretend that there wasn’t a whole lot about the movie that I didn’t like. The characters themselves and their relationships to one another, the chilling and creepy atmosphere, and the actors themselves are all wonderful. It’s a mixed bag, so I’m not sure if I recommend seeing this. If you’re a fan of the genre, you might find a few things to enjoy here. Just don’t expect a very good movie to accompany it. If you wanted to see it in theaters, a matinee showing would be best. Definitely worth a rental later on down the road.
My honest rating for THE TRANSFIGURATION: 3/5