Tuesday, July 17, 2012
MIDNIGHT SON: Dark Cravings in the Night
Midnight Son (2011)
Written and Directed by Scott Leberecht
Midnight Son Official Site
It's fitting that I find myself watching Midnight Son in the wee hours of the night. The midnight hour is populated by any number of misfits, addicts, freaks, and lonely people. The protagonist in Scott Leberecht's stunning feature could count himself among all four categories. In fact, he might be the penultimate member of the cast of janitors, bar hoppers, security guards, and convenience store clerks who go through the motions of life under cover of darkness. Though they carry on as if it's all completely normal, there's a gaping hole in their lives that must be filled whether it's with drugs, alcohol, microwave pizza, or worse.
Confined to his basement apartment, Jacob (Zak Kilberg) lives banished from the sun due to a rare skin disorder. His sense of isolation is so profound, he's painted landscapes of burning sun to cope with the loss of daylight and normalcy. Night after night is a routine of sameness and loneliness. Working as a security guard during the graveyard shift, he experiences hunger pangs that can't be satiated by dozens of microwaved dinners. The phrase "dead end" has larger implications for him than simply a low wage job.
When he meets Mary (Mya Parish), a young woman with her own demons, the two form a complex bond of late night trysts and meaningful conversation. She provides a spark missing from Jacob's isolated life, further enriched by her interest in his artwork. Their relationship is sweet, yet tumultuous, neither able to trust one another enough to connect fully. Jacob's life is further complicated when he discovers blood keeps the hunger at bay. What started as anemic discomfort grows to full blown blood dependency. As his hunger grows, so does his propensity for violence.
Midnight Son has been compared to George Romero's Martin, and it's an apt comparison. However, Jacob's vampirism becomes much less ambiguous as the story moves along. Jacob deals with a medical worker named Marcus who supplies Jacob with blood from the hospital. The two soon become intertwined, set on a course for violence in the final act. While it's clear by the climax that Jacob's vampirism is very real, a lot is still left wide open. Possessing neither fangs nor uncanny super abilities, the origins of his affliction are a true mystery. Is it the result of his condition? Is it genetics? A mutation? These are questions Leberecht smartly leaves lingering.
Midnight Son puts a unique spin on the vampire mythos, but it's primarily about relationships. Jacob, who at one point only talks to a janitor who works in his building, now must contend with Mary's role in his life, as well as Marcus. The sinking ship that is Jacob's life is getting a little crowded. As the boat takes on water, Jacob finds that the responsibility is too much to handle. As if his own bloodlust wasn't enough to juggle, he's now let in all these outsiders.
If there's one thing I might criticize, it's an unbelievable scene between Jacob and a police detective investigating a murder at Jacob's work. Jacob confesses to the crime, yet with mounting evidence against him, the detective lets Jacob go. This isn't a dealbreaker in any way, but just a minor bump in an otherwise exemplary film. One could argue that the detective possesses evidence that something supernatural is at play, and may be biding his time. Though it is difficult to believe that no security cameras catch Jacob in the act of his many crimes.
Midnight Son is a film worthy of your time. It's clear enough that you know you're getting a bonafide vampire flick, but ambiguous enough to keep you guessing. Scott Leberecht has succeeded in creating the best vampire film since Let the Right One In. It's a romantic film with tragic characters, but one that has all the bite missing from lesser attempts at vampire love stories. The acting is incredibly good and nuanced, and I wouldn't be surprised if Kilberg and Parish became instant stars. It's an incredible feature debut for Leberecht, a talent who should be on every film fan's radar.
Midnight Son Trailer