Lately, the best aspect about being a movie fan for me is throwing myself into a film I have zero knowledge of. A lot of what’s pushed at the multiplexes rely so much on name recognition, it’s becoming difficult to be surprised by a movie. That’s why, when it comes to an original film, especially one in the indie circles, I prefer to go into it knowing nothing about it. I avoid trailers, synopsis, etc. It’s truly reinvigorated that sensation of discovering movies, and the latest case for me is THE TRANSFIGURATION.
Eric Ruffin plays Milo, an orphaned teen who lives with his older brother, Lewis, somewhere in New York. Milo is an extremely alienated kid: he has no friends; is bullied by not only other school kids, but also the gang members that hang around outside his apartment building; and he doesn’t have that close a relationship with Lewis. He is also obsessed with vampires. He reads about them, has VHS tapes that are nothing but vampire movies… So obsessed with vampires is Milo, that he believes he is one himself, and he periodically hunts for victims to kill and drink their blood. Milo then meets Sophie (Chloe Levine), a girl who lives in his building with an abusive grandfather. Sophie feels just as isolated as Milo, and the two quickly become friends.
The feature-length directorial debut of Michael O’Shea (who also wrote the film), THE TRANSFIGURATION is a confident first outing. It’s more of a drama than a straight horror film, dealing (or not dealing) with loss being a major theme. The camera acts as us, the audience, as we follow along with Milo (an exceptional performance by Ruffin, who has the makings of a star) through his days and nights, and his bond with Sophie. We also see New York through the young man’s eyes: a desolate, empty place in spite of the dense population. And we’re right there with our lead character in the moments of horror, making them truly suspenseful and terrifying.
Even though THE TRANSFIGURATION is a serious drama, the horror love is definitely there. Vampire films from NOSFERATU to NEAR DARK are watched and discussed by Milo and Sophie. A scene from an episode of the HBO series TRUE BLOOD is described to Milo by Sophie, which, as it turns out, plays a big part in Milo journey. In addition, filmmakers Lloyd Kaufman and Larry Fessenden are featured in cameos.
With a standout turn by Eric Ruffin and a captivating visual style, THE TRANSFIGURATION is a harrowing story of a young man’s troubling obsession with vampirism. Fans of George Romero’s MARTIN should take note; this film is a worthy modern-day equivalent.
The Transfiguration opens in New York tomorrow, April 7th at the Angelika Film Center and in Los Angeles on Friday, April 21st at The Nuart Theater.