[Review Repost] Michael O’Shea’s ‘The Transfiguration’ is a Refreshing and Moving Vampire Tale – Bloody Disgusting

Themes of isolation have regularlypermeated vampire stories in popular culture for years, and why wouldnt they? Vampires are arguably the quintessential outcasts in horror,a concept explored on film in various ways,from1922s Nosferatuall the way to 2014sA Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. On the surface,Michael OSheas dark dramaThe Transfigurationfeels like another understated take on the coming-of-age vampire tale, particularly recalling 2008sLet the Right One In (and its 2010 American remakeLet Me In) in set-up. OSheas subversive and starkly melancholic perspective, however,makes for a film thatfeelsfresh in its approach to the subgenre all on its own,usingvampirism as a means of exploring the lengths one will go to escape trauma-induced griefanddepression.

The film follows Milo (Eric Ruffin), a lonely, black teenage orphanliving in a low-income neighborhood inQueens, New York under the care of his older brother Lewis (Aaron Clifton Moten), a militaryveteran. Milo spends his days daydreaming in class, walking along the boardwalk alone, and watching vampire moviesand graphicnature videos, all while regularly avoiding the gang members in his neighborhood who regularly taunt him for being a freak. Left emotionally dissociated in the wake of his mothers recent suicide, Milo has also developed a darker practice: he feeds on the blood of unsuspecting strangers. A self-proclaimed vampire, Milo has made peace with his life in the shadows of society and the fact that he is not good. When a young teenage girl and fellow orphan named Sophie(Chloe Levine) moves into Milos building, however, he begins to question his actions and the course of his life.

What makes The Transfiguration such a striking cinematic experienceis that it is not ever really about vampires at all. Every element in OSheas film is grounded firmly in the reality of its low-income, crime-ridden urban backdrop, and Milo, despite his clandestineidentification as a modern bloodsucker, is simply a pained young man trying to find his way to happiness in this often bleaklandscape. The greatest monsters we encounter in the film as we follow Milos daily routine are not the undead, but rathersocial and environmental disparities that prevent our protagonist from ever fully comprehending the extensive effect of the life trauma he has faced at a young age. In an especially effective move, OShea, a first-time filmmaker, is not overt or preachy in his exploration of these themes, and he subtlylets his environment speak for itself. Still,these perspectivesresonate powerfully as Milos journey unfolds, providing a genuinely heartbreaking look at trauma, class issues, and adolescentmental health issues.

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With that being established, it may not be all that surprising that thereare actually no traditional vampire creatures in The Transfiguration and that Milos kill scenes in the film are rather light on bloodshed. Viewersexpecting gritty violence froma film of this nature may certainly be put off by thisand the understated, slow-burn approach taken by OShea. When all is said and done, The Transfiguration is likely more easily digested by the modern viewer when approachedas a dark and dramatic character study rather than a traditional horror film. Still, OShea and cinematographer Sung Rae Cho manage to craft an isolating and even hopeless atmosphere here that is indeedthreatening, and the film utilizes its more traditional horror elementsincluding tensemoments in whichMilo casually stalkspotential preyto great effect. I especially loved the unsettling, heavy synth drone that accompanied the films deathscenes.

Beyond serving asanarrestingexercise in deliberately pacedfilmmaking, The Transfiguration is also elevated as a deeplyengaging and tragic love storythanks totheperformances of its two leads. The chemistry that Ruffin and Levine quickly establish as Milo and Chloe find common ground is undeniable. Milo is a solemn and painedspirit who always appears to be deep in fantastic thought, and Ruffins approach to the character is marked byan astounding level of emotional acuity and authenticity. Likewise, the complex Chloe is heavily damagedno stranger to acts ofself-harm and sexual exploitationyetshe still gets genuinely excited when she chatsabout the Twilight series. Levine convincinglychannelsbotha gleeful teenage girl with a crush and ayoung woman who has encountered harsh experiencesfar beyond her years. The story of Milo and Chloe manages to offer intermittentrespitefrom the darknesselsewhere inThe Transfiguration, and even if you suspect that these two are doomed, you cant help but hold on to the tiniest glimmer of hope fora happy ending, even if only because Ruffin and Levin are such a joy to watch.

Where TheTransfigurationultimately leadswill no doubt leave a lasting impression, though some may admittedly growfatiguedin the length of time it takes to get to its moving finale. The film additionally makessome rather interesting decisions in regard to what it openly reveals and what it leaves to the imagination. While I am a fan of calculatedambiguity in more subversive genre efforts, I can see the lack of clear answers about Milos or Chloes backstories being another point of frustration for some. Still, upon closer inspection, you will find that every part of OSheas story serves a greater purpose. For those that canstick with the measured pace of the film and take time to appreciate the strong performances of its young stars along the way, I can guarantee that the poignant payoff is well worth it.

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[Review Repost] Michael O’Shea’s ‘The Transfiguration’ is a Refreshing and Moving Vampire Tale – Bloody Disgusting

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