In The Transfiguration, a teen boy named Milo (Eric Ruffin) longs to be a vampire. It’s a secret that is difficult to hide as pictures of Dracula adorn his walls and his ideal “date” night consists of taking a girl to see Nosferatu at his local theater. But the fascination with vampire culture stretches far beyond a lust for immortality or even physical beauty (Milo makes it clear that the vampires in Twilight are not realistic). To Milo, vampires have existed in a self-perfected form for millennia, and it’s this ultimate state of being that this boy with a troubled history works meticulously to achieve.
Because we know that vampires exist purely in the realm of fantasy, Milo’s characterization and actions throughout the film are made all the more disturbing the more they are revealed. And the revelations come early. The moment the film begins we know Milo to be a killer, and a serial one at that. It’s a brutal introduction to a character but writer/director Michael O’Shea does a nice job of letting this twisted tale unfold and allowing the audience to make connections that paint a broader and more sympathetic picture of Milo. For instance, in a school counselor session early on in the film, we learn that Milo has a history of animal abuse. Along with vampire films, he also indulges in slaughter house films on YouTube. Whether or not such behavior was informed by the death of his mother by suicide is unclear, but a possibility, as her death is a force felt throughout the film.
Ruffin’s portrayal of Milo is that of a centuries old vampire with no compunction and an endless stretch of time at his disposal. Milo is stoic in his reactions to the people around him and the events of his life. His brother Lewis (Aaron Moten) lives in a state of denial over the death of their mother and clearly chooses to ignore the strangeness in Milo. Their relationship resembles two ships passing each other in the night. When Milo meets Sophie (Chloe Levine), another troubled teen who moves into his complex, he greets her attempts at expressing empathy over his losses with matter-of-fact truth-telling; “It’s just something that happened,” he says. It’s difficult for other characters to get through Milo’s surface but Ruffin does an admirable job enabling the audience to see another layer to Milo in the quieter moments of the film.
Milo’s inability to connect with other people has enabled him to explore his dark interests and get away with horrible crimes. But as his relationship with Sophie gets closer he begins to see another path to the enlightened state he craves and it doesn’t revolve around his own desires for self-actualization. It’s through an act of self-sacrifice that Milo gets his moment in the sun and transfigures not only his being but that of an another.
As a fan of all media related to vampires, “realistic” and not, I dug this horror-drama that explores yet another facet of the traditional coming-of-age story. The slower pace of the film allows the audience to delve into the nooks and crannies of O’Shea’s script and connect with characters that are not easy to ally with at first glance. The Transfiguration is worth a look at this year’s Cinedelphia Film Festival! Event details and tickets available here.
Author: Jill Malcolm
Jill is happiest attending midnight screenings with other crazy film fans at her local theater. Her other passions include reading, traveling to faraway places, cat videos, pugs, and jalapeño peppers. She is co-founder of the blog Filmhash.