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MOVIES: The Transfiguration - Review [SXSW 2017]

Set against the backdrop of a crime-ridden New York City neighborhood, Michael O' Shea's debut feature follows 14-year-old Milo (Eric Ruffin), an introverted teen with a vampire obsession. He reads nothing but vampire novels, his bookcase is lined with bootleg VHS tapes copies of everything from Blade to The Lost Boys, and he periodically murders people in order to quench a growing thirst for blood - in fact, this is how we're first introduced, as he drinks from the slashed throat of his latest victim.

Milo is frequently bullied by the gang members and drug dealers which hang around outside his building - they're blissfully unaware of his nighttime activities - but despite being something of an outcast, an encounter with a pretty neighborhood newcomer named Sophie (Chloe Levine) blossoms into an unlikely friendship. She takes a liking to Milo and his peculiarities, allowing him to prattle on about the lack of "realism" in the Twilight series or his theory that a vampire couldn't commit suicide, and their relationship gradually evolves into something of a more intimate nature. There's a certain sweetness to their connection, even as we recognize a growing danger to Sophie's well-being as more and more time passes since Milo's last feeding.

Parallels can be drawn between O'Shea's film and the 2008 Swedish masterpiece Let the Right One In, which also dealt with the complexities of burgeoning young romance where one participant happened to drink blood, but The Transfiguration is a different sort of vampire tale, a coming-of-age drama about loss and grief and accepting that which we cannot change, while also striving to change those things we must. Its melancholy tone may not be for everyone, but genre fans hoping for an original approach to the subject will be pleased with O'Shea's vision.