The Transfiguration

B- Kind of a horror movie
Written and directed by Michael O’Shea

Believe it or not, Michael O’Shea found a new twist to the vampire genre: Avoiding the supernatural.

Everything in The Transfiguration could, at least in theory, happen. The movie’s vampire has no special powers or weaknesses. He can’t turn into a bat. Neither daylight nor crucifixes bother him. He uses a small knife in place of fangs. He is, quite simply, a young man addicted to blood.

Milo (Eric Ruffin), barely into his teens, lives with his older brother in New York city projects. Despite his difficult situation, he seems to be a good kid. He’s studious, and he tries to stay out of trouble.

But he has a secret. Once every few days, he kills someone by slitting their throat and drinking their blood. Then he takes their cash, washes up, and goes about his business.

His studious nature concentrates on one important subject: vampire lore. Milo reads almost every book about the mythic bloodsuckers. He has a huge collection of vampire movies (oddly in VHS; sometimes I wondered if this was a period piece).

His life takes a turn when another troubled soul, Sophie (Chloe Levine), moves into his building. Like him, she’s an orphan, living with a grandfather who may be sexually abusing her. She cuts herself, and exhibits other self-destructive acts.

As a white girl in a crowded community populated almost entirely by African Americans, she’s very much a fish out of water. Milo and Sophie become best friends, and she soon moves in with Milo and his brother – anything to get away from her grandfather. They sleep together.

Like any modern horror film, The Transfiguration has its share of gruesome imagery. But it doesn’t go overboard.

I liked The Transfiguration very much, but a couple of things bothered me.

First, the police seem to have no interest in these bodies turning up with slit throats and loss of blood. Milo’s fingerprints must be all over the crime scenes. At one point the cops pick up Milo about a crime unrelated to blood-sucking, and no one thinks about checking prints.

Much worse, The Transfiguration left a bad, racist taste in my mouth. The protagonist is a black teenager preying on white people (there’s no discussion about the race of his victims, but the ones we see are all white). Milo’s older brother, the one who is supposed to be responsible for his little sibling, spends most of his time watching TV. The other African American characters are stereotypical thugs.

And yes, writer/director O’Shea is white. This in itself shouldn’t be relevant. I’m white, myself. But I can’t help feeling that a black filmmaker, or even a white one less prone to stereotypes, would have made a better movie.