M.L. Miller here! As I go into my tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved. Moving on to Year Seven of my year-long Retro-Best in Horror I’m recapping the Countdown beginning officially on October 1, 2016 and going through September 30, 2017. I have posted Best of lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also worked and reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around, and even adding a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t! Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!
Released on April 7, 2017! Available On Demand, digital download, & DVD here! Also streaming on Shudder!
THE TRANSFIGURATION (2017)
Directed by Michael O’Shea
Written by Michael O’Shea
Starring Eric Ruffin, Chloe Levine, Aaron Moten, Dangelo Bonneli, Danny Flaherty, Anna Friedman, Jaquan Kelly, Tarikk Mudu, Carter Redwood, Tyler Rossell, Charlotte Schweiger, Luis Scott, Lloyd Kaufman, & Larry Fessenden
Find out more about this film here, @thetransfigurationfilm, and on Facebook here
One of the most interesting and unfortunately overplayed movie monsters is the vampire. There have been every variation of the vampire in film and book form explored in previous years, specifically during the TWILIGHT era, but even before that. Like many of you, I have taken a break from being transfixed with vampire lore, but every now and then, a new concept comes along, and it makes the whole thing feel fresh again. This time around, that film is THE TRANSFIGURATION; a film that is not only a great vampire story, but it also metaphorically addresses how trapped we are in our own fate, no matter how big we dream. Sure it’s not the most uplifting of subject matter, but the film addresses this matter in such a somber and mature way that I believe it will resonate with even those who are not in love with the horror genre.
THE TRANSFIGURATION focuses on a young, troubled, African American boy named Milo (Eric Ruffin)—an outcast with no friends, no parents, and a weird belief that he is a vampire. Milo doesn’t only believe this, but in the opening scene we see him draining the blood from the neck of one of his victims in a public men’s room stall. Milo checks in with his social worker weekly, gets groceries for his shut in brother Lewis (Aaron Moten), watches vampire movies, and reads up on being a vampire. Milo’s life of avoiding bullies at school, keeping out of reach of the gang members who live in his building, and coping with the death of his parents changes when he meets Sophie (the utterly charming Chloe Levine), a street-wise white girl who takes interest in Milo because he doesn’t treat her objectively and rudely like the other boys do. What transpires is an odd little romance between a girl trying to find a place to be safe and a boy who thinks he’s a vampire.
This is an odd movie as it never really makes it clear as to whether or not Milo really is a vampire or not. Sure he has convinced himself that he is one and attacks pedophiles and bad people, draining them of their blood, but he is not a vampire in the supernatural sense that Milo sees in the vampire movies he watches all of the time. Reminiscent of Romero’s MARTIN, the excellent New York vampire film MIDNIGHT SON and LET THE RIGHT ONE IN/LET ME IN in terms of a young vampire befriending another youngster, writer/director Michael O’Shea isn’t concerned with telling a supernatural story, but a human one about two lost souls coming together. It is obvious that Milo is suffering from a mental disorder. His deadpan delivery and vacant stare is haunting and everyone around him knows it. Having found his mother’s body after her suicide, Milo broke inside and he has never been able to fix it. What this film does so well is depict Milo as a kid who is trying to understand who he is, why he is the way he is, and if he can interact with the world in a way that he sees others doing. It’s entrancing seeing Milo let down his walls to let Sophie in ever so slightly and trying to make connections with her in his awkward, twisted, and off-kilter way (his first date with Sophie is watching animal torture videos on his computer, which of course, freaks Sophie out). Just as it is fascinating to see Milo connect with Sophie, it is equally interesting understanding why Sophie might be interested in Milo. She likes that he is weird and is more attracted to him because he actually presents himself as having no feelings. Sophie just doesn’t know how deep these eccentricities go and the anticipation for that revelation is painful the closer it gets.
Both Ruffin as Milo and Levine as Sophie are true cinematic finds. Milo speaks volumes with no words at all. When he does smile and speak, he does so in an equally restrained way. It takes a lot to feel for a character who is first seen draining a man of blood in a men’s room stall, but Ruffin does it through the horrific situation he is in and his attempts to connect with Sophie in a way that you can’t help but root for him. Chloe Levine is amazing as Sophie. She is fragile and strong. She is street wise but still innocent. She’s a true tragic flower in a concrete jungle just waiting to be stomped, but somehow she survives and has a brightness in her eyes every time she encounters Milo. Looking like a young Charlize Theron, Levine is going to be a huge star—mark my words. Seeing the two of them walk along the sidewalk oozes more character than most Hollywood actors with Milo’s little shuffling walk with no movement in his arms and Sophie’s graceful stride as she crosses one leg in front of the other. It’s absolutely fascinating following the two of these characters as they get closer to one another and it’s also torture to watch because you know nothing good is going to come from this relationship in the end.
THE TRANSFIGURATION, like many vampire films, can be seen as a metaphor for the hopelessness and trapped feeling inner city youth feel every day. While Milo is obviously smart, his tragic past and dangerous environment almost ensure that his life is on the line every day. The numb and lifeless feel Milo exudes is a look I am all too familiar with working as a therapist for inner city youth for the last 15 years in Chicago. Not only is this a compelling little horror movie, with real chills, bloody gore, and powerfully dramatic moments, but it also depicts a lifestyle that is often glamorized in rap videos and looked past in bigger budget films. This is a grungy, close to the street film reminiscent of New York films by Frank Hennenlotter and Abel Ferrara. The film’s pace is slow, but I was so transfixed with the characters, their plight, and the overwhelming urge to hope these two can make it out of this together and alive, that I didn’t even notice. THE TRANSFIGURATION is a marvel of a movie with breathtaking performances, rich characters, and a story as compelling as they come. I absolutely loved this film and give it my highest recommendation.
THE 2016-2017 COUNTDOWN!
#17 – THE TRANSFIGURATION
#18 – THE GREASY STRANGLER
#19 – I AM THE PRETTY THING IN THE HOUSE
#20 – ANNABELLE 2: CREATION
#21 – SPLIT
#22— TRASH FIRE
#23 – 47 METERS DOWN
#24 – HELL HOUSE LLC
#25 – THE SUBLET
#26 – PATCHWORK
#27 – IT STAINS THE SANDS RED
#28 – GERALD’S GAME
#29 – LAKE BODOM
#30 – NIGHT OF SOMETHING STRANGE
#31 – THE EVIL WITHIN
M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.
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