SXSW 2017: The Transfiguration
A horror romance grounded in realism, The Transfiguration is a depressing watch. Young Milo (Eric Ruffin) is obsessed with vampires, to the point where he believes they exist. In his spare time he watches the bloodiest vampire movies he can find, and when the fake blood inevitably bores him he goes to the internet to watch videos of animal killings. Milo himself has a history of killing animals for their blood. You see, not only does Milo believe in vampires, he thinks he is one. As he would say, a realistic one. Milo has no fangs. No special powers or problems with the sun or any Christian symbols, but he does feel a need to drink blood, and goes to great lengths to get it.
Somehow, the film also manages to inject an interesting love story into the chaos. Milo meets Sophie (Chloe Levine) in the stairwell of their building one day and she takes a liking to him. The two are both orphans being raised in less than ideal homes. Milo is so detached from reality that their relationship never really gets to blossom, no matter how hard Sophie tries. She tries to take him on dates, he invites her in to his apartment to show her footage from slaughter houses.
Ruffin gives a memorable performance as the distant Milo. The first-time actor does good with the few lines he's given. As does Levine. She's affectionate and sweet, the one bright spot that this dark movie needed. The film is peppered with scenic wide shots that the tiny Milo stands out in, and the few scenes of violence are uncomfortable close-ups that show off the decent effects work.
To be honest, the movie ends up being tough to watch. Every aspect of our Milo's life is depressing, and that's before you factor in his murders. The bloodlust isn't sensationalized, it's real. There's no gooey violent escapism here. The kid can't even keep the plasma down after he sucks it out of the necks of the people he's killed, as it often ends up at the bottom of a trash can or in the middle of the floor. It's hard to stomach the main character's actions, even harder when the main character can't stomach them either.