The Transfiguration (4 stars)

The Transfiguration

Michael O'Shea's debut is an imaginative indie horror offering a fresh take on vampirism

Vampirism as metaphor is nothing new: bloodsucking myths have made poetic work of everything from the clash of old and new civilisations to teenage sexual tension. Impressive, then, that this low-key, staunchly realist take on the subject manages to bring freshness to the subject.

Teenager Milo (Eric Ruffin) lives in a housing project with his taciturn war veteran brother Lewis (Aaron Clifton Moten); both parents are dead, their mother by suicide. Locally, Milo is known as a weird kid. His childhood habit of injuring animals has landed him in school counselling sessions, and he whiles away his friendless alone-time researching stories and movies about vampires and watching violent video clips online.

Whether scenes of Milo also murdering and drinking the blood of his own human victims are to be taken literally, or regarded as his troubled fantasies, will be down to individual viewers to determine for themselves. Either way, though, Michael O'Shea's assured debut feature is persuasive in its use of vampire mythology as a metaphor for how violence operates in teenage lives: as a persistent threat inside and outside the home; as a lurid preoccupation; as a self-administered outlet for emotional pain.

A tentative love story commences when Milo meets Sophie (Chloe Levine), a fellow orphan his own age who self-harms to release the anxiety of living with a grandfather who beats her up, and who proves unexpectedly accepting of his oddball ways. It's hardly a straightforward meet-cute, but soon whether Milo can locate enough good in himself to sustain the nascent friendship becomes a more pressing matter than how he will find his next victim.

A strange, solidly-acted slow burn studded with shocking moments, The Transfiguration may prove too tender for horror fans and too grim for indie purists; but it slides between genres with a good deal of imagination, sensitivity and grace.

General release from Fri 21 Apr.

The Transfiguration

  • 4 stars
  • 2016
  • US
  • 1h 37min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Michael O'Shea
  • Cast: Eric Ruffin, Chloe Levine, Aaron Clifton Moten
  • UK release: 21 April 2017

Lonely orphan teenager Milo (Ruffin) lives with his war veteran brother (Moten) in a housing project; obsessed with vampire lore, he meets Sophie (Levine), a fellow orphan and outsider. Low-key, staunchly realistic take on vampirism as a metaphor for how violence operates in teen lives, soldily acted, imaginative and…