Midnight Son – directed by Scott Leberecht
Festival screening times – 3/4 @ 930pm, 3/6 @ 645pm, 3/11 @ 1230pm
If there’s one film genre that’s been done to death in recent years it’s the whole ‘sexy ballerinas engaging in lesbian shenanigans’ storyline. Hollywood needs to give that one a rest already. But close behind it are movies about vampires. From Twilight to True Blood vampires are a character type well past the point of over saturation as filmmakers seem content on milking the same weak conventions time and again. For every Let Me In we seem to get five more like Suck or Transylmania. The need for a more nuanced and interesting take on these blood-suckers is long overdue.
Which makes the arrival of Scott Leberecht‘s Midnight Son such a goddamn relief.
Part urban horror, part loneliness drama, and part late-night romance, Leberecht’s film takes a low-key approach that avoids most of the cliches while reveling in the only one that matters… the unquenchable desire to drink blood out of Styrofoam cups.
“Ain’t nothing worse than waking up in the middle of nowhere with half your face on fire.”
Jacob (Zak Kilberg) works the night shift as a high-rise security guard and sleeps during the day. He has an unusual skin disorder that causes sunlight to burn his flesh at a highly accelerated rate, and his arm bears the bubbled scars to prove it. Oh, and he also enjoys the taste of fresh blood. He tries to satiate the raging hunger within by eating case-loads of microwave pizzas, but blood is the only thing that satisfies. To that end he’s content with slurping the liquid protein from packaged meat containers and gives no thought to the idea of human blood. Well, not immediately anyway.
He meets a cigarette bar girl named Mary (Maya Parish) and the two hit it off. She comes over to his place, snorts some coke, and the two of them start making out until blood drips from her nose onto his face and mouth. Jacob gives it a tentative lick, and an odd sensation comes over him. Odd, but not bad. Soon he’s looking for human blood in all the wrong places including other peoples faces and hospital dumpsters which is where he meets the morally bankrupt Marcus (Jo D. Jonz) and things take a turn for the violent.
The film’s characters are aware of ‘vampires’ without the film itself becoming an overly self-referential commentary on the genre. One particularly inspired bit finds Jacob watching a scene from Fright Night with the great Peter Vincent pressing a cross to Evil Ed’s forehead and the flesh burning beneath it. Jacob looks at his pasty and pale visage in the mirror, slowly moves a cross to his own forehead, and then laughs at himself when nothing happens. Scenes like this benefit the film by benefiting the character. He’s human and struggling with his identity under difficult circumstances, and Kilberg manages to meld Jacob’s recognizable heart with his somewhat unusual predilections without turning him into a freak or an unlikeable protagonist.
If Leberecht’s film has a thematic predecessor it’s George Romero’s Martin which shared a similar use of the outlying genre to tell a personal story of a young man alone in the world. It may be blasphemy to some, but this is a far better film. It’s dramatically rewarding in the way Jacob’s loneliness and discovery are presented, it’s blackly humorous throughout a series of awkward dates continually interrupted by traitorous physical reactions, and while it’s more of a drama than a horror movie fans of the sticky red stuff won’t be left wanting.
Midnight Son is a refreshing and subtly entertaining break from the uninspired and artificial examples of the vampire genre clogging up the cineplex. It deftly blends drama, romance, and a wet, crimson splash of horror into a story about the line between who we are and who we want to be. It’s an easy line to find and a difficult one to cross, but all you need is luck, passion, and purpose. And maybe an empty Trenta cup from Starbucks.
The Cinequest Film Festival runs from March 1st to the 13th in San Jose, CA. Check the Cinequest site for more information and complete schedules.