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July 21, 2012

Midnight Movie of the Week #133 - Midnight Son

Vampire. The word alone is enough to send some shivers down a horror fan's back these days.  We grew up loving vamps, learning their legends, and pondering every on screen vamp from Lugosi to Keifer and beyond.  Many of us recognized that the vampire was often tied into a romantic plot and presented as an ill-fated demon who fell in to the wrong circumstances. And then, Twilight happened.
While the story of Edward & Bella took the world by storm, one teenage girl at a time, a lot of horror fans pointed to similar vampire romances, like Kathryn Bigelow's Near Dark, as examples of how to mix vampirism with fatalistic romance.  And, back in November of 2010, a few indie filmmakers offered me the trailer for an upcoming vampire drama that looked like it could take back the night - literally - entitled Midnight Son.

Built like a drama and revolving around the study of its characters, Midnight Son follows a pale and anemic security guard named Jacob who works at night, burns in the sunlight, and can't seem to gain sustenance from anything but blood.  Jacob, played by Zak Kilberg, fits most of the characteristics horror fans expect from vampirisim, though the film plays with his fears in a few of its more humorous moments.  At one point, Jacob checks out the horror section at a local video store and tries to learn some tricks from the reels of Fright Night.  Unlike many horror films that exist on the fringe of their subgenres, writer/director Scott Leberecht is not afraid to show his characters are familiar with the concept of what ails them.
As Jacob learns about his own condition, he also begins a relationship with a young woman of the night who is off-kilter, but entirely human.  Mary, played by Maya Parish, has her own issues, but the two lost characters are drawn together.  Perhaps it's because they don't seem to fit into society, or perhaps it's just that they both know any better and need companionship at any cost.  There's no discussion of fate or true love or any of that baloney that sells a bunch of books and posters and awful movies, but Jacob and Maya's relationship becomes a centerpiece of the film because it is allowed to be a flawed attempt by two people to make sense of their differences in light of the connection they have made.  The vampire issue is only one thorn in their relationship, which makes the film feel a lot more genuine than big budget horror romances.
Through this all, Jacob learns about himself as he travels the underbelly of Los Angeles.  The people he meets, including a hospital employee who's willing to break the rules of waste disposal and an aged janitor who seems oblivious to any worries, each add their own element to the character's understanding of life and his ailments.  The keystone of the picture is certainly Kilberg's performance - he's completely committed to the role and seems to thrive against the deliberate pace of the film - but each piece of the story fits in as a nice compliment to one of the finer horror characters in a long time.
Like Near Dark and Larry Fessenden's Habit before it, Midnight Son recognizes that vampires don't have to be all about capes and bats and castles.  There's nothing about Jacob's state of being that is romantic or stylized, because when you strip away all that stuff you might realize that a young vampire is just someone who is really confused about how they fit in to their world. There's a slight conversation about good vs. evil that occurs, but Jacob's story is mostly concerned with survival and acceptance.  There are more questions asked than answered, perhaps, but the film isn't too concerned with wrapping everything up in a neat package. Midnight Son is the raw version of the vampire story, and it should keep the viewer intrigued with its minimalistic approach and smart approach to the subject matter.

Basically, according to that last paragraph, it's the opposite of Twilight. I can live with that.


knobgobbler said...

Sounds a bit like 'Martin'.
I'm not adverse to romance in vampire and other sorts of horror movies... but IMO it shouldn't trump the horror. 'Twilight' is weak-sauce, and kind of suspect in its politics, but it's only the low point on a steady slide from vampires as monsters to misunderstood angsty teens. Anne Rice has a lot to answer for... and as much as I like 'Near Dark' there is a big chunk of that movie that never sat well with me... mostly centered around giving the romance a chance to thrive, requiring the protagonist to not embrace the life and to find a way out for him and his girlfriend. The best thing about 'Near Dark' are its vamps, who revel in their evil ways, rather than sit around an cry about it.

Christine Hadden said...

I'm quite anxious to see this one, it's been on my radar for a while. Glad it's decent enough to warrant a look-see.

The Mike said...

Thanks guys!

knob - Martin is a good comparison, but I don't know if this one's as abstract as Romero's film. And you're dead on about the slide in vampire cinema - it was heading that way before Twilight took it down. Good perspective on Near Dark too, adn thanks for reading!

Christine - Hope you check it out! I think it may be up your alley.