Maybe it just came out at the wrong time in the UK. Watching The Transfiguration a couple of weeks after watching Raw was never gonna do it many favours. Two films playing around with horror movie tropes, the cannibal, the vampire, as a way to explore contemporary politics. This one is looking at the abandonment of lower class, black majority populations by a society that still, consciously or not, remains empowered by their subjugation.
It’s the story of two orphan misfits, Milo (Eric Ruffin) and Sophie (Chloe Levine) who strike up a relationship when she moves into his apartment building. She’s been transferred into the care of her abusive grandfather, he’s taken care of by his brother who mostly sits in front of the TV as it plays, in just the best touch, a neverending stream of adverts. While she dreams of escaping the world’s bullshit by moving to her cousin’s farm in Alabama, he’s chosen the more achievable goal of becoming a modern day vampire, killing people and sucking their blood.
On the whole nobody notices or cares, he’s a quiet kid anyway, and you’re not going to start looking too closely into these things. In New York people get killed every day. Being a vampire don’t agree with him, at least physically anyway, he has the same reaction any of us would have to a stomach full of blood, but yet he persists. There’s something to identify in there, the outcast, wise and unknowable, immortal, untouchable by the outside world.
There’s maybe a comment about masculinity in there. The most entertaining conversations are the ones which trip about vampire lore, which (along with the showcased clips) tip the hand that there some real horror nerds behind the flick. She’s trying to encourage him to read, or at least watch (and only the first,) Twilight, True Blood too also gets her Vampire seal of approval. He don’t think those are very realistic depictions of Vampirism. For him being a vampire has to be something conflicted and dark and exclusively viewed through a male lens. By leaning into the fantasy as a way of escaping his environment, is he actually enforcing the paradigms of it.
The film opens with him drinking a dude’s blood in a toilet stall in a way which sounds pretty sexual to the guy at the urinal. Once the camera moves inside the stall this subtext is forgotten, I think it was supposed to play as a joke. Whatever, I thought it was going to be a queer kid vampire film and I started getting excited. It isn’t though.
It’s admirable, and it struggles slightly against a young actor whose self-consciousness permeates his performance, but as a whole it feels slightly underwound. Perhaps the edit is a little loose, but between the entertaining dialogues, the young romance, the charming older brother, there’s precious little to keep the engine running, and with no one stoking it, the flick just grinds to a halt.
The Transfiguration is playing in select cinemas.