The Transfiguration opens with a man in a public bathroom hearing sucking noises. Believing that he is overhearing a sexual tryst, he quickly departs, and we are shown the real activity in the next stall: a young boy sucking the blood out of his victim’s neck.
The boy is Milo (Eric Ruffin), a troubled teenager who lives in a gang-filled housing project in Queens with his army veteran brother. His father died when he was eight and some years later he walked in on his mother’s dead body after she slashed her arms with a razor blade. Milo is fascinated with vampires: his room is covered with drawings, references and VCRs of vampire films. When he meets Sophie (Chloe Levine), also an orphan and an outsider who is living with her abusive grandfather, a bond between them forms despite Milo’s frequent fantasies of sucking her blood.
Ruffin is captivating in the leading role but the character himself is ultimately impenetrable, just as Sophie discovers when she tries to understand him. Levine is sweetly charming and inspires a real fear in viewers as we wonder whether or not she will fall victim to Milo’s bloodlust. But this tension alone is not enough to carry the movie, which is filled with allusions to the great vampire films Nosferatu, Let the Right One In, Near Dark, and even Twilight. However, these references serve as a reminder of what Michael O’Shea’s The Transfiguration could have been, but ultimately fails to compare to. The violent attack scenes are gruesome but rather toothless compared to the gore and terror of those previous features. If it is to be classed as a horror movie, The Transfiguration is nowhere near chilling enough, and unfortunately Milo is too indecipherable and indifferent for it to be watchable simply as a character study.
The rundown area of Queens is beautifully captured, as is the protagonist’s hauntingly obsessive bedroom décor. Margaret Chardiet’s music and Gillian Arthur’s sound add power and drama to Milo’s attacking scenes through surging electronic music.
The film is an interesting portrayal of a different kind of vampire than is usually depicted: depressive rather than psychopathic, and sympathetic without being sexual in any way. But the lack of great emotional shifts on Milo’s part, and the sex and horror usually associated with the undead, leave The Transfiguration ultimately lacking in bite.
The Transfiguration is released nationwide on 21st April 2017.
Watch the trailer for The Transfiguration here: