Director: Michael O’Shea
Released 21st April 2017 (UK)
Fresh takes on the vampire movie sub-genre are typically an awful lot like homeopathic remedies, everyone’s seemingly got one but, more often than not, it’s a waste of time. Enter first time writer-director Michael O’Shea, whose debut effort – The Transfiguration – is hands down the finest vampiric offering since Let The Right One In first graced our screens nearly a decade ago. Insightful, thought-provoking, and delving headfirst into the more dramatic terrain of the horror genre, it marks not only a career-making effort for O’Shea, but a star-making turn for its young leads Eric Ruffin and Chloe Levine.
Relative unknown Ruffin is our creature-of-the-night POV, a reclusive fourteen year-old in the NYC slums whose monthly feedings fall by the wayside with the arrival of new resident Levine. As the pair grow closer, and Ruffin’s Milo begins to find in his new companion the kindred spirit he’s always so richly craved, he finds his humanity beginning to finally take hold. However, as the abusive behaviour of local gang members begins to rise, and the fallout from his previous kills begins to mount, Milo’s lives – both new and old – seem destined to intersect, his world inevitably set to unravel as a result.
At once both reverential and satirical, The Transfiguration serves well as a launching platform for O’Shea – the compelling work of a first-time helmer who both knows and unquestionably respects his would-be genre. Amidst the various nods and winks littered throughout – Milo’s VHS collection, for example, should illicit a laugh or two – there’s a deep and deliriously gripping tale that tackles head-on the idea of vampirism as an analogy for male adolescence in the same manner with which Ginger Snaps – and, more recently, Raw – tackled the female viewpoint by way of werewolves and cannibalism respectively.
Ruffin is a real find, the soulful and understated performance on offer here reminiscent of what made RJ Cyler a one to watch several years back. Sharing beautiful chemistry with the wide-eyed and effortlessly engaging Levine, it’s a performance that would own the show outright were it not for an equally impressive effort behind the camera by O’Shea. Never quite going where you expect it to – yet, equally, never disappointing in its various arrivals – The Transfiguration is a riveting teen character drama that feels almost as if its skilfully masquerading as a vampire movie rather than simply being one – a testament to O’Shea’s sharply concise writing and a story that will hook even the most weary of vampirically-saturated audiences. By the time it gets around to poking fun at True Blood and the Twilight movies, you’ll be hooked, and more than willing to laugh along with it’s gloriously enthralling characters.