The Transfiguration Movie Review
Written by Ryan Holloway
Released by Thunderbird Releasing
Written and directed by Michael O'Shea
2016, 97 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
Released on 21st April 2017
Eric Ruffin as Milo
Chloe Levine as Sophie
Dangelo Bonneli as Kevin
Andrea Cordaro as Sophie's Friend
Larry Fessenden as Drunk Man
Danny Flaherty as Mike
Milo (Eric Ruffin) is a troubled African-American teenager obsessed with vampire lore. When he meets Sophie (Chloe Levine) it begins a bond that will challenge Milo’s beliefs in this often disturbing, quite brilliant thriller.
Director Michael O’Shea is not afraid to wear his influences firmly on his sleeve, referencing them as part of the wonderfully natural dialogue between the troubled teenagers. There are shout outs to Nosferatu, Let the Right One In and even (gulp) Twilight but the closest comparison has to be George A. Romero’s 1978 genre classic Martin, and it’s no coincidence that Milo cites the film as one that he deems the most ‘realistic.’
Milo is on a journey, a journey to find the most realistic vampire story and in doing so it will see him go deeper and deeper into his obsession.
We are introduced to Milo as he is engaged in an act with a stranger in a toilet cubicle; it’s a clever first encounter with our protagonist, which, with the use of some suspicious slurping sounds, invites us to make assumptions before seeing the brutal truth that we are witnessing both a murder and the feeding of a predator.
Despite his murderous nature, Milo has an unearthly calm about him (Levine is exceptional in the role) and it’s his calculated view of the world that makes him both fascinating and deadly. He makes notes on his kills, drinking his victim’s blood from wounds inflicted with a knife he has expertly fashioned from a pen.
We do get glimpses of Milo’s past and a gruesome memory of his Mother’s suicide, bringing empathy for a character that seems to have very little of his own. He lives with his older brother who we see from time to time in moments that remind us of Milo’s sombre reality.
It’s his disturbing past that has brought on less-secret behaviours (it seems that he may have started his blood-sucking journey on animals), earning him a reputation in his neighbourhood as a ‘freak’, a name often cruelly thrown at him by a gang that hangs around outside his building. And like the bullying and name calling, Milo handles his blood-lust in much the same way, taking it in his stride and never showing a hint of emotion.
Outside of the blood, the real beating heart of this story is not one of horror but one of sweetness, as a beautiful relationship blossoms between Milo and Sophie, played with such effortless realism by the very charming Chloe Levine. Milo happens upon her as she is self-harming, a very personal and disturbingly effective introduction to a character so beautifully written.
The two of them wander around New York offering a peek of what could be if Milo could control his urge to kill.
The sweet moments are truly ones to behold and make the film really stand out as one that could easily become a cult classic. Sophie opens up to Milo about her life and becomes more comfortable telling him about her troubled past and her hopes for the future. Her vulnerability creates a lot of the tension as we truly hope that things work out. It seems unlikely, however, because as the love grows so does Milo’s darker side as we are abruptly torn back into his life as a vampire and master manipulator.
O’Shea handles the abuse of his characters with sensitivity and the grace of a veteran director. Milo and Sophie are perfectly fleshed out and we get so caught up in their coming of age relationship that it makes Milo’s vampirism all the more brutal. There are also moments in the story that take you to the tip of predictable genre fare without ever making the leap and in doing so, make for a credible piece of film-making that never rests on the obvious but instead challenges its audience to empathise with a character that is, not merely a monster, but one shaped by a past that he can never explore properly or come to terms with.
The end to Milo’s story is incredibly well crafted and one that you may ponder for hours. The film looks cool and crisp throughout and although it is gory and violent, there is such beauty at its core that is as heartbreaking as it is frightening.
Sweet, disturbing, romantic and brutal, The Transfiguration is everything good cinema should be.