Thursday, May 16, 2013

Short Review: 'Midnight Son' (2011)

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One of the oldest stories ever told is the nature of loneliness. The search for companionship and human connection is an aspect of life many have found extremely appropriate for expression in popular mediums, one being that of the cinema screen. Taxi Driver, The Conversation, Two Lane Blacktop, The Hitcher and Solaris (1972) are but a few examples of enduring studies in mental isolation and the existential questioning faced by those simultaneously overwhelmed and withdrawn by life’s complexities. Stylistically these films are often very strong, however it is arguably their relevance to reality that make them so eternal within the public consciousness.

Interestingly enough, many genre films that incorporate these themes are often overlooked simply because many audiences assume the weight of such subjects cannot be effectively tackled within the boundaries of convention. Disproving this na├»ve notion, Midnight Son skilfully takes the vampire metaphor and transposes it to the urban decay and seclusion of Los Angeles, encapsulating everything great about the aforementioned films whilst still infusing the intensity of a slow burn horror movie into the mix to create one of the most intelligent and affecting stories of vampirism in many a year.  

Jacob (Zak Kilberg) suffers from a rare skin disorder that prevents him from making contact with sunlight. A reclusive yet talented artist, Jacob remains in his basement apartment during the day while working the night shift as an office building security guard. After frequenting a late night bar after work, Jacob meets a lone bartender named Mary (Maya Parish) with whom he eventually develops a romantic relationship with. As Mary increasingly situates herself within Jacob's world she slowly begins to realize her boyfriend may be keeping a deadly secret, one that could well prove dangerous, no matter how hard he tries to conceal it.

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Midnight Son is the first feature film written and directed by Scott Leberecht, a former ILM visual effects artist and concept designer. Even though its influences may be highly derivative (Martin and the Swedish version of Let The Right One In to name but a couple), Leberecht manages to craft a screenplay so nuanced and relatable to human emotion - within a unique environment no less – that his take on what could have been a tired melodrama is elevated significantly above the par of cliche. The direction of the story is confident and concise and told both through the actions of well-realized characters as well as the enormity of the atmosphere that surrounds them. Moreover, while the film is ultimately about the loneliness of addiction and the desperate lengths to which an obsession can sometimes drive one to commit the most heinous of acts, Leberecht never looses sight of the story’s grislier aspects, making sure to bring things back to the macabre when it really counts.

So effectively personalising is the experience of Jacob's transformation that any glamour and mystique of the vampire myth is also quickly stripped away, making the fantastical aspects of Midnight Son less about the supernatural and more affiliated with Cronenbergian ideas of body horror and the fear of uncontrollable physical disfigurement. Also, much the same way Romero articulated issues of medical anxiety with Martin, Jacob’s confusion as to the nature of his ‘illness’ is exemplified through his feelings of self-disgust and revulsion as a result of his own extreme actions to support his compulsion. Thankfully, the terrific lead performances from both Kilberg and Parish compliment the subtleties of the writing and aid in a number of deeply moving moments, particularly toward the tumultuous third act.

The overriding attribute of Midnight Son is, again, its attention to the intricacies of human emotion and for this reason alone it comes highly recommended. Quietly captivating and impressively performed, it stands as one of the more tragic love stories to slip its way into the genre whilst also keeping its finger firmly on the pulse of fan expectation so as to not disappoint in its more horrific moments. With all the effects-laden teen angst tales we’ve seen hold the genre hostage in the last few years, this neat little effort comes as a breath of fresh air and a definite shot to the heart in what is possible in low budget filmmaking.

Midnight Son is now available for purchase through Monster Pictures.

Dir: Scott Leberecht
Writer: Scott Leberecht
Cast: Zak Kilberg, Maya Parish, Jo D. Jonz, Larry Cedar
Country: USA
Run Time: 88mins
Rating: MA15+

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad someone is as impressed by it as I was. Cheers.