Midnight Son

Midnight Son

***1/2

Reviewed by: Owen Van Spall

Well, well, well, a vampire story sneaking its way into a limited release and onto DVD even as the great shadow of the last Twilight movie still looms in UK theatres. This film probably had about 1000th of the catering budget of any of those films but it doesn't seem to have mattered, pardon the pun, a drop. Though low key and lower budget , Midnight Son is atypical, funny and intriguing, with a nuanced, neurotic performance from possible breakout star Zak Kilberg.

Director and writer Scott Leberecht, in his first debut feature film, plays around with vampire lore, aligning his film more with the lineage of vampires-as-addicts film narratives rather than with certain more recent blockbusters that have portrayed bloodsuckers as ethereal sites of teen angst and desire. The word vampire doesn't even really get used here, there are no coffins, no monsters (no CGI wolves or glowing vampires here, sorry Team Edward fans), no capes or castles. If anything, it harkens back to more cerebral, earthy and ambiguous depictions of vampires such as in The Addiction, Let The Right One In and Martin. Vampires who have to have jobs, get up to go to work, worry about paying the rent or being discovered, all while wondering where their next dose of blood is coming from. This is vampirism as curse, as a debilitating 24/7 condition making you a prisoner in a city that never sleeps.

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The story concerns the reclusive Jacob, a 20-something hunkering down by day in his spartan basement in Echo Park, LA in the present day. He's rakishly thin, hauntingly pale, good looking but with the poise of a man trying to be invisible. The first few scenes we get with Jacob show him alternately stuffing his face compulsively from a variety of greasy takeout boxes in his apartment, and getting checked up by his local doctor, who is starting to suspect anaemia lies behind Jacob's lethargy and general physical weakness. We the audience of course suspect right away what is going on - this young man is doomed to be always hungry because he clearly needs human blood.

With a narrative that is flashback free, and Jacob being a man of few words, we learn little about his backstory over the film's 90 odd minutes. In his words, Jacob is afflicted with a skin disease that forces him to stay out of the sun. As we follow him about his routine, we see his apartment architecture is supplemented with bin liners and blankets covering every possible chink of light around the doors and windows. His job as a night security guard for a corporation keeps both him in cash and safely out of the UV rays. Seemingly friendless and painfully withdrawn, Jacob finds his only outlet in the paintings on his wall, depictions of a sunrise he has presumably not seen in years. Clearly the years have allowed him to develop some kind of coping mechanisms for whatever his condition is, but naturally, we arrive at a time when the order is about to be upset. Beyond the fact that Jacob's hunger is clearly growing worse (eventually leading him to buying blood from his unscrupulous local butcher,and later on far more risky methods that open up the final act), things are destabilised by Jacob's chance meeting with the pretty but drug-dependent Mary. Seemingly unafraid of Jacob's eccentricities, Mary starts to tempt him into a relationship that might be his salvation or the one thing that sparks the hunger he is fighting to suppress - maybe one and the same.

Moodily shot around a car-and-streetlight-drenched downtown LA, Midnight Son might be minimalist but it is well paced, and its atypical group of characters is played by a committed cast (apart from Kilberg, Maya Parish as Mary and Jo D Jonz as the charismatic but shady blood-dealing nurse Marcus do fine work). Leberecht keeps you curious between trying to figure out the nature of Jacob's condition and wondering whether Jacob can keep his desires for blood suppressed around Mary and what will happen if he can't. Interestingly, the film teases by making Jacob seems so neurotically crippled, and then later on at risk from a dangerous and far less restrained foe, that any release of his vampiric power could feel as much a blessed relief as a submission. Perhaps, one character suggests, Jacob should just accept that he doesn't have to be alone, and that ''everyone's got their thing.”

Reviewed on: 10 Jan 2013
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Twisted romance with a vampiric edge.
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