Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Michael O'Shea's THE TRANSFIGURATION offers a new twist to vampire tales

The vampire movie, even more than most genres, can always benefit from new blood. Unfortunately, the red stuff provided by a film opening this week and titled THE TRANSFIGURATION, written and directed by Michael O'Shea, is mostly anemic. What we have here isn't merely low-budget film-making. it is also low-end and very low-energy. 

The movie begins in a public rest-room stall where something that sounds (and then looks, to the fellow taking a piss nearby who hears what's going on and so kneels way down to take a peek under the stall door) like sex. It's something else, however, but already this movie is coming up sloppy and unbelievable.

Would a rest-room occupant go to that much trouble for a view unless he were also interested in the sex? Doubtful. If he were worried about the health of the stall's occupant, wouldn't he instead call out, "Are you OK in there?" Yet our guy goes to all that trouble to get a view and then simply leaves, once he sees what he thinks he sees. OK: We'll let that one pass. 

Mr. O'Shea, pictured at right, whose first full-length film this is, has certainly cast his movie well. The performers look their part and, as actors, are also quite believable and real. 

The tale told is one of a young man named Milo (played by Eric Ruffin, above) with a vampire fixation. Or obsession. For some very odd and never adequately explained or even properly imagined reason, he has decided that he can become a vampire by killing folk and drinking their blood. Otherwise, he's a sweet kid who is, of course, bullied by the neighborhood toughs and who meets an equally sweet young girl named Sophie (Chloe Levine, below) who lives in his building in a housing project in the city, who is herself also bullied into sex by the local boys.  

Are you getting flashes of Let the Right One In, with the genders reversed? No surprise, as that excellent vampire film is mentioned a few times in the course of this one -- along with a number of other landmarks of the genre -- both good and bad. Milo is a fan of Near Dark, while Chloe prefers Twilight. Can this relationship last? More important: Can this would-be vampire tale make any kind of logical sense so that we have a reason to keep watching.

The answer unfortunately is no because this isn't a vampire tale at all. Instead it's the story of what might be the sweetest nutty-serial-killer of all time, one whose exploits repel without fascinating and whose story finally makes too little psychological sense to be at all convincing. The most believable character in the movie turns out to be Milo's brother, Lewis, played very well by Aaron Moten, who becomes more interesting (and sad) the more we learn about him.

Chloe and Milo are paper-cut-out characters, and even though both actors give it their all, there's too little detail in their conception and characterization from which they can create much. In the supporting cast we find the likes of Larry Fessenden, wasted and barely seen facially, as one of Milo's victims.

Movie-making skills are at a minimum here, too, with the visuals noticeably low-budget without being at all interesting (there are a couple of OK compositions now and again, as above and below), but O'Shea is so lax at times that we can too easily miss a would-be important moment, as when our hero checks to see if his girl has absconded with his loot. Was it there or not? We had to go back, via rewind, to make certain. Finally, the energy level is so low that we had to keep pinching ourselves to stay alert and on board. This is no way to make a vampire movie, certainly, nor for that matter a serial killer film.

From Strand Releasing and running a too-long 97 minutes, the movie opens this Friday in New York City at the Angelika Film Center and on Friday, April 21 in Los Angeles at Landmark's NuArt. To view all currently scheduled playdates, with cities and theaters listed, click here.

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