Vampires died with Twilight. From the moment the filmmakers illuminated Edward’s pale bedazzled flesh, our horrific fears of these midnight bloodsuckers were firmly extinguished. Long romanticized for their hypnotic allure as well as their ability to brutalize their victims, this PG-13, watered-down version was the final straw. No longer were vampires a nightmarish terror, nope. They officially became a punch line. The Transfiguration wants to take us back to basics.
Milo (Eric Ruffin) is an isolated, yet seemingly normal teenager. One who lives in squalor with his PTSD-afflicted brother, avoiding bullies unnerved by his oddness on a daily basis. Milo is also fixated on the undead, so much that he has convinced himself that he is, in fact, a vampire. He has immersed himself in vampire myths – movies, books, folklore – and even begun tasting human blood. Is it real? Is Milo truly in the midst of transfiguring? Or is this merely the origins of a disillusioned serial killer?
Milo’s metamorphosis is halted when he meets Sophie (Chloe Levine), a tormented girl with blistering self-esteem issues. For reasons lost on me, she finds solace with Milo, even placating his obvious obsessions. As time between the two grows, a romance takes hold.
From the opening scene, writer-director Michael O’Shea leaves zero doubt that Milo is a disturbed young man. But Ruffin’s sincere and mature portrayal of Milo continues to unnerve the audience enough that we begin to believe it just might be possible that he’s Nosferatu incarnate after all. This combination of material and actor create one of the more unsettling takes on the supernatural in some time, as this is a seemingly average boy with a tough life thus far…and an underlying rage that placates a taste for death.
As Sophie, Levine centers the film with a heart desperately needed for us to relate to this Romeo & Juliet Meets Dracula plot twist. Milo is a character who wades in-and-out of frame with nary a care in the world – for anyone or anything – until Sophie cracks his hardened shell, disrupting his razor focus.
Despite a few pacing lulls, the film is a riveting spin on the vampire genre, and one that was sorely needed to inject a little horror back into the lore. There are no sparkles here, nor do our characters succumb to absurd heroics. By the time we witness the culmination of Milo’s journey, the unique terror of it all finally falls into place.
The greatest trick the devil played was convincing the world he didn’t exist, and Milo seems to be in on the game. The Transfiguration puts the ire back in vampire.
Starring Eric Ruffin, Chloe Levine
Written by Michael O’Shea
Directed by Michael O’Shea