The Transfiguration (2017) [REVIEW] [SXSW ’17]

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Vampire movies aren’t my thing. Granted, there are few horror subgenres that are “my thing,” but you gotta give me something pretty unique if you’re going to give me a vampire story. That’s not to say that I don’t like the gothic romance of Kiss of the Damned or blood-thirsty monsters of 30 Days of Night, but Vampires, much like zombies, feels like a subgenre that has left many areas unexplored. Luckily, in the case of The Transfiguration, you don’t have to completely reinvent Vampire mythology to give audiences something fresh that borrows elements of its predecessors to give horror fans an intimate and tragic coming-of-age tale.

It doesn’t get much more romantic than a minivan seat in the middle of a dump.

If there’s one thing Milo (Eric Ruffin) loves, it’s vampire movies. He might not have many friends and he might not be that close with his family, but the one thing he can always count on being there for him, it’s vampire movies. From The Lost Boys to Nosferatu, he loves them all. When Milo befriends new neighbor Sophie (Chloe Levine), he attempts to inform her about the wide variety of vampire cinema, opening her eyes to more than just Twilight. Milo’s obsession with the undead is perhaps a little too intense, as he actually believes he can become a vampire if he embraces his bloodlust, sneaking out in the middle of the night to kill unsuspecting victims and imbibe on their blood. As his relationship with Sophie evolves, Milo must decide whether he carries out his transformation or embrace his newfound humanity.

Is this sign trying to tell us something? Probably!

Guys…I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Wow, Wolfman, this basically sound like Let the Right One In meets Martin.” For the most part, you’re right! That’s a great elevator pitch for this movie! However, I feel like comparing it to two other good movies is dismissive of The Transfiguration. Ruffin and Levine play wonderfully off one another as two teens trying to find their place in the world. The only life Milo has really known is that of an outcast, a position Sophie’s mere existence challenges. All relationships, by nature, are about compromise, as the acceptance of another’s importance in your life shifts your priorities. Watching Milo constantly make decisions about how much of himself to give to a new partner is enthralling and the film has many subtle moments about the characters’ struggles to open themselves up to another, knowing that will also leave them vulnerable.

Hey, lady, I don’t care how cute he is, you can’t stare at who you have a crush on ALL the time.

What makes the film so believable is the ages of the characters and their place in life. The documentary Beware the Slenderman recently chronicled how two young girls and their obsession with technology led their detachment from reality, leading to an infatuation of a concept that wasn’t real. In The Transfiguration, no one was there for Milo to tell him vampires weren’t real and that no amount of devotion to an ideal could make the impossible a reality in which he could live. As a horror movie, the film isn’t entirely thrilling, but as an exploration of teen love and the difficulties one faces when trying to find your place in the world, it’s quite effective. Oh yeah, and even though the film can be described easily as “Let the Right One In meets Martin,” there are still quite a few surprises in the finale that helps take audiences into unexpected territories, making us confront our perception of the story.

Wolfman Moon Scale

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