Milo (Eric Ruffin) is an orphaned ghetto youth living with his older brother in NYC. He's also a vampire. He's understood that about himself at least since his mother's suicide, and his morbid fascination with all things vampire in film and literature has gained him the attention of high school counselors--though they're not aware that he actually stalks human prey at night (when he's not dodging bullies and the aggressive gang-bangers that share his tenement). By random chance, Milo makes the acquaintance of Sophie (Chloe Levine); a young lady roughly his age who's living her own hell of molestation, alcohol abuse and self-harm--and an uneasy friendship develops.
Milo doesn't want to see Sophie as prey and doesn't want her to know his true nature... but he thinks nothing of screening slaughterhouse footage (from FACES OF DEATH) for her amusement or going into great detail on his favorite and most "realistic" vampire tales (while she tries to get him interested in TWILIGHT). Milo is lucky enough to have a repertory theatre screening the silent NOSFERATU for a start... he also most appropriately and gratifyingly invokes MARTIN (debt fairly acknowledged, although THE TRANSFIGURATION is by no means a remake), NEAR DARK and SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE as he gradually lets his guard down for Sophie. (I also saw NADJA on his video shelf alongside the more commonplace titles... I wish I could have asked Milo about THE ADDICTION, GANJA & HESS or Spike Lee's remake DA SWEET BLOOD OF JESUS, as they all go along with Milo's conviction that vampirism is an acquired disease as opposed to a supernatural curse.) In any event, there's nothing supernatural about the encroaching and suffocating horrors that are going to force dramatic changes in both young lives...
First-time feature writer/director Michael O'Shea submitted THE TRANSFIGURATION to Cannes on a lark and was gobsmacked when the festival actually selected his film for showcasing. He shouldn't have been. As you've doubtless already noted, THE TRANSFIGURATION is a literate and truly heartfelt tale that cares about its characters even as it refuses to sacrifice shock for sentiment. Indeed, while the gritty, low-budget inner city reality (enthusiastically bolstered by such background characters/contributors as Larry "That Guy" Fessenden and none other than Lloyd Kaufman) is foreboding enough, the film is still quite capable of startling horror veterans who think they know everything that's coming. (Frankly, if there's a more disturbing moment waiting for me on film this year than something that transpires in the second half of THE TRANSFIGURATION, I'm not sure I even want to deal with it.)
With the exception of one gratuitous 'cheat' moment, THE TRANSFIGURATION ranks as yet another standout horror release in what's proving to be quite an exceptional 2017. Too bad almost nobody actually SAW it.
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