Midnight Son | Film reviews, news & interviews
Vampires are victims too, in an atmospheric LA horror tale
“It’s like you’re a vampire,” whey-faced LA security guard Jacob is told. He gives a dawning, diffident look of recognition. Back in the cramped apartment he’s stopped leaving by day, he places a crucifix on his face, not quite expecting it to sizzle. For much of director Scott Leberecht’s atmospheric debut, he seems to be following Jacob’s progressive weakening by a rare disease with vampirism’s effects: blood-thirstiness, and enforced night-dwelling, ever since sunlight first blistered his skin aged 12. It takes us a while to realise the “vampire” description’s truth. The transition to a last act of full-blown Gothic horror which duly follows, though shaky, confirms Midnight Son’s off-beat ambition.
Vampires are cinema’s ultimate undead, of course, resurrecting themselves with infinite new twists of relevance. Away from Twilight’s sexless teens and True Blood’s sexy Southerners in the latest boom, Leberecht’s vision isn’t unprecedented. Abel Ferrara’s The Addiction (1995) was a bleakly brilliant philosophical horror film, linking vampirism to drug addiction, Aids and the Holocaust. George Romero’s Martin (1977) portrayed what might happen if a lonely boy thought he really was a vampire. Sunny California, too, has been stalked by vampires before. What makes Midnight Son special is the slide from unexplained illness into horror, its sense of place in suburban hinterlands, and the sad truth of its characters.
Cinematographer Lyn Moncrief helps find soft neon beauty as Jacob flits between LA’s night-worlds: the midnight shift at the offices he guards, the wholesale butcher’s where he buys bags of blood, the gallery where his strangely beautiful art's success briefly promises a new life, and the hospital bins he rifles for plasma with feral desperation.
At a club he meets fellow night-worker Mary (Maya Parish), as lonely and hungry for love as he, till as they attempt sex at his apartment, he convulses and his eyes turn a warning, bestial yellow. But with her own nervous bathroom coke-snorting, she knows about needs. By the bins, meanwhile, he meets slick hospital orderly Marcus (Jo D. Jonz), only too ready to lead him to the dark places where even blood can be obtained on demand; just don’t ask whose. “Everybody got their thing, man,” he says knowingly. “You oughta drop the morals, kid,” is his later, blunt advice. “You’re already damned.” When this sleazily criminal black man is later shackled with heavy chains, it’s not quite on Django Unchained’s crazed level of racial button-pushing. Pulp excess, though, isn’t Leberecht's natural lingo.
Zak Kilberg’s performance as Jacob (pictured above right), insomniac, isolated and finally driven to kill by his condition, has the watchfulness of a life-long victim, and a flyweight's skinny vulnerability. Parish, selfless as Mary, matches his messy neediness. Their stumbling, sordid romance is heightened by its setting in a vampire film, with its garish violence and inexplicable desires. Leberecht peoples their California with odd, unglamorous characters, and finds quiet poetry there, where the night and neon never end. Made on a micro-budget like most good horror, this is a surprising, thoughtful debut.
Watch the trailer for Midnight Son
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?
Sweet, slightly predictable, quirky British dramedy veers from the norm
Beloved wanderers of the New German Cinema
Tricky Dicky meets the Pelvis in smart satirical fantasy
An on-the-run mother and son seek sanctuary in a knotty allegorical drama
Timothy Spall is amongst a host of talent lining up in two very different British films
Susan Sarandon shines as a meddlesome saint of a mum
Brutal crime thriller on corruption among Roman politicians, church and mafia
Ravishing feast for the senses in Italian fables starring Salma Hayek and Toby Jones
theartsdesk recommends the half-dozen top movies out now
Film festival celebrates its 70th anniversary and Trainspotting's 20th
Robert Altman period weirdness sizzles with suppressed violence and sexuality
Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Cannes winner is an unsettling yet restful tale of sleeping Thai soldiers