The Transfiguration Review
The Transfiguration (2017) Film Review, a movie directed by Michael O’Shea, and starring Eric Ruffin, Chloe Levine, Aaron Clifton, Carter Redwood, Danny Flaherty, Larry Fessenden, Lloyd Kaufman, James Lorinz, Victor Pagan, and Anna Friedman.
The vampire genre is a very popular film subject for audiences. After watching The Transfiguration, you know immediately what kind of vampire film it is as our protagonist Milo (Eric Ruffin) is into the classics like Dracula, Nosferatu, and Let The Right One In. This story isn’t about vampires but the horror that this character faces everyday in the streets. After losing their parents, Milo lives with his brother Lewis (Aaron Clifton), a veteran living in the outskirts of New York. Old vampire films fascinate Milo, so he ends up watching them alone in his room. Living in isolation, Milo leads a private and quiet life. He tries to understand his dark desires whenever he watches web videos of animals eating or being eaten. Despite this taking place in New York, director Michael O’Shea moves us away from the city and into the projects where the streets are a warzone.
Unlike most teens, Milo has taken obsession of vampires to a whole new level where he marks a day every month when he lets out his inner vamp by killing random strangers and drinking their blood to satisfy his blood thirst. His life suddenly changes due to the arrival of a new teen in the block, Sophie (Chloe Levine). Also orphaned and living with her abusive grandfather, the two strike up a friendship that turns into something more. The two teens are also fans of vampire films, even though their tastes in the genre differ, as Sophie prefers Twilight to Milo’s fascination with violent horror films. They are both drawn to each other’s pain, which makes Milo’s quiet existence more open.
The question of Milo becoming a vampire is rather complicated to explain as O’Shea is showing the viewer that Milo isn’t some helpless young teen in a nightmare. Milo is portrayed as a mortal being who looks to vampires and carnivores as an escape from his personal trauma. He ends up going into the night gathering real blood and carries on the weight of the people he has murdered, which can be as contracting as living with a paranormal secret.
Milo’s journey also mirrors what’s going on in our society with race. His nightly hunts also reflect on the danger that lurks in his block by a street gang. They show some impractical behavior when they shoot a white male point blank. It’s not something that may happen in these neighborhoods, but it does make you think of how the film is relating the monsters we hear in fairy tales to the crimes that we face in the streets. We get to see that tone in the setting, which is nicely shot in Rockaway Beach. This film seems to display the harsh realities of inner-city life.
O’Shea draws reference to other vampire films, like Nosferatu and Martin, as realism and fantasy becomes a blur in The Transfiguration. Despite the influences, O’Shea doesn’t fully explore the idea too much, as it ties into his anti-hero. Rather than going into the vampire mythology, it’s more of a character-driven story. The pacing can be slow, but it’s effective in going deep into Milo’s psyche.
Ruffin does a fantastic job as a troubled teen has an unhealthy obsession with the vampire phenomena. Milo grows on you as a character, and he is more than just a monster. However, the film’s figurative language summons another type of horror that it never completely unravels. The actor also shares some great chemistry with actress Chloe Levine as they both carry the film. O’Shea knows just who he wanted to cast in the film, which shows in the final cut. Even the musical score is simply terrifying but it also sets the mood of the film. Story wise, O’Shea could’ve developed a tighter story to give us a better understanding of what Milo is going through.
The Transfiguration is a great debut for Michael O’Shea as a director as his fondness for the vampire genre fits into this story of a young boy’s obsession with the lore and his first experience of falling in love. The film does have heart, but it does lose it’s drive midway through it. The horror flick uses some strong characters that get tested by their experiences that we all remember as teenagers. Overall, the film draws inspiration from many vampire films but it also is a coming-of-age story about just being a teen.
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