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Friday, May 18, 2018

Midnight Son (2011) Horror vampire

Midnight Son (2011) - The vampire has been replayed over and over in the movies and with each new incarnation writers try to build on the myth adding rules what they can and can't do. Trans-configuration, lack of reflection, super strength, quick healing,  hypnotism, fear of the Christian cross, sparkling in sunlight each new vampire builds something into the mythos. Midnight son on the other hand purposely strips away the special powers of the vampire and instead creates what could be read as a metaphor for addiction. I doubt that this was the actual message behind the film but it certainly could be read that way. Built more in a reality closer to ours it is a story about a young man, Jacob (Zak Kilberg) who has photo-sensitivity to such an extent that his skin burns in sunlight. This vampire trait means he lives at night. He is a security guard at a building on the night shift. He blocks the light from his basement apartment and sleeps all day. When we meet him he is about to under go a change that impacts his lonely isolating life.
 Scott Leberecht in an interview on the special feature talks about Carl Jung and his idea of a shadow self, a part of each one of us that has been repressed, maturing we wrestle that demon and acknowledging and coming to terms with that "bad" part of ourselves. In the film we see this journey in what may or may not be the most successful wrestling match. Jacob is and his sudden infatuation with blood as a struggle of self control. He needs to acknowledge this shadow and find  way to live with it. Or as the janitor (the great Tracey Walter) in his building says, in a bit of on the nose philosophy. It's like a butterfly bursting from its cocoon transforming into a mature creature.
  There is not a lot of background given about how he got to his twenties and managed to survive and if not flourish at least build a life for himself. He is a lonely guy making his way in the world. We join him at the start of the change, suddenly his appetites are changing and instead of the meat and potato diet he has always had he suddenly wants the taste of blood. Writer / Director
  At the same time of his new dietary needs Jacob meets Mary (Maya Parish) and feels the desire to be connected to another human. It is an interesting contrast between the animal desire he is feeling for blood that is dangerous and consuming, and the sex impulse, physical attraction that is interconnecting and sharing but equally consuming. The relationship comes haltingly because Jacob's blood impulse holds sway and the trust that comes with emotional attachment is not yet in place. His need to hide the desire makes it harder to connect. I appreciated the complex and nuance writing and acting in the character of Mary. She like in life is a complicated women with her own baggage that also slows the roll of the relationship. Parish is subtle in her portrayal with small facial reflections that heighten the character.
  The other main character is a hospital worker Marcus (Jo D. Jonz) who sees Jacob's desire for blood as a money making opportunity. He has access to blood that will be disposed of and can supply as much as needed. Again I appreciated that the character is developed and not just 'that guy with the blood'. Marcus also does not make things easy and plays a growing role as the movie progresses. He has his own motivations and compulsions that make for a more complex relationship with Jacob. Hints of a predatory nature makes his character a bit threatening, besides the fact that he is actually threatening to Jacob. The same can't be said for the Police in this film. they are investigating a murder or two but the entire subplot of their involvement and interaction with the main character is under written. Jacob's  connection to the murder is too weak in my opinion and the suspicion of the cop too strong. Even with that criticism overall the characters are well defined even if the relationships can seemed strained at points.
  As the desire for blood grows stronger the addiction aspect and comparison can be seen. Jacob making worse and worse choices because of the desire for more blood is inevitably going to create the crisis of the story. In that build up to the climax there are a couple of real nice reveals that build a mythos for this world and this kind of vampire. Where the story is so character-centric we never really get any origin story for the Why? question of Jacob's transformation but we do get a complete story arc and a conclusion which many times horror films fail to deliver.
  I can't say I loved this film but it was okay. Even though the pacing of the scenes was good the musical score accompanying them made it feel more of a slow burn than it should have. I know the director liked the music but as the plot got more tense I don't think the music properly kept up with it. As noted earlier the character relationships were in fits and starts and that, although desired over canned characters, made the film feel a bit uneven at times. It starts and stays a small movie which felt appropriate and I mildly recommend it to those who want a slightly different take on the sub-genre. 

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