After Dark 2011: ‘Midnight Son’ is a contemporary spin on vampires
Directed by Scott Leberecht
2011, USA, 88 minutes
You know where this is going. Jacob (Zak Kilberg), a shy and lonely young man, works a nighttime security job because of a severe reaction to sunlight, thus amplifying his loneliness. He’s constantly hungry despite a supply of increasingly raw steak. Right around the time he starts licking the moisture from Styrofoam meat trays, Jacob meets Mary (Maya Parish), a cute but damaged girl just out of a relationship. Here’s the thing, though: it doesn’t really matter that the conventions of the vampire mythos make the plot of Midnight Son easy to anticipate. Director Scott Leberecht tells the story well, at that’s what matters.
Vampires exist to be reinvented, and Leberecht’s take on some of our oldest monsters is refreshing and contemporary. Certainty, blood, isolation, and love remain part of the story. However, gone are the dusty religious and superstitious elements of vampirism, and absent are the trashy tween elements of its most current unfortunate incarnation. In fact, if Twilight represents the naïve preteen’s opinion (love is syrupy, grand, and ideal in an insipid sort of way), then Midnight Son is the cynical adult’s answer (love is difficult, suffocating, and gratifying in a torturous kind of way). Vampire Son is careful to treat everything from Jacob’s progressing affliction to his developing relationship with a sense of maturity that enables the film to build themes of loneliness and uncomfortable horror easily.
A good deal of credit should go to the film’s leads, Kilberg and Parish. Their supporting cast, though, talented, is minimal, and they carry the bulk of the film by themselves. Kilberg, especially, spends a lot of time on screen alone, which can be difficult for an actor to keep interesting, but he manages.
That said, Midnight Son’s indie roots show. This isn’t all bad (after all, it’s hard to imagine a studio film moving in the risky and mature route for a vampire movie), but it does mean that the film makes some compromises that don’t quite do it justice. A few moments, especially later in the film, don’t work, and drew laughter from the audience. And of course, this being a vampire movie, we were treated to the obligatory time-lapse shot of the city during the day. It’s the easiest way for a vampire film to show the passage of time, if not the most interesting.
If you can forgive some rough indie moments, then give Midnight Son a shot. It’s creepy, contemporary, and uncomfortable in all the ways a vampire movie should be.
– Dave Robson
The 6th Annual Toronto After Dark Film Festival runs October 20 though 27, 2011 at the Toronto Underground Cinema. For complete festival info visit www.torontoafterdark.com.