Director: Scott Ledberecht
Starring: Zak Killberg, Maya Parish, Jo D. Jonz, Larry Cedar
Running Time: 105 minutes
Synopsis: Confined to a life of isolation due to a rare skin disorder, Jacob begins to drink human blood for sustenance to cope with the disease, leading the police to suspect him in a series of grisly murders…
MIDNIGHT SON was officially released in 2011 for limited screenings in the US and Canada (‘Toronto After Dark Film Festival’ and ‘Fantasia Festiva’l) and labelled as “indie vamp horror”. Most people seemed to have steered clear, which is totally understandable given the current deluge of new-wave Gothic horror films we’ve had in the last few years. However, stick with us for this one, as happily there are no over CGI’d actors.
MIDNIGHT SON begins by showing the life of Jacob who has a mysterious skin disorder, which forces him to lead his lonely life in the darkness as a night time security guard. Stuck in his brightly lit basement flat he paints beautiful canvases of the sun and shows them to Mary, a coke addict barmaid with whom he gradually falls in love. Jacob develops an insatiable hunger which he realizes can only be satiated by blood, this leads to a spiral of shame and confusion for Jacob until he accidentally tastes Mary’s blood and realises it’s what he needs. In his quest to find human blood he meets Marcus, a reprehensible hospital worker, who becomes his supplier. Things quickly escalate out of control as Marcus is bitten by Jacob and becomes a ruthless vampire that Jacob knows must be stopped.
I loved that Vampirism isn’t approached as a cool super-power in the film, but as an unknown disease. There is a great deal of mystery surrounding the cause of the illness in Jacob as a child, and the emanation from within is more interesting than any cliche Leberecht could have chosen, as countless other films have done. Although I had reservations, I was won over by the obvious talent of Parish and Kilberg, not to mention the beautiful and deeply personal reflection of the film’s difficult topics of urban addiction and alienation, and the incredible cinematography.
Writer and director Leberecht recently said: “We generally don’t like being at the mercy of anything, but when the thing we don’t like emanates from within, our self-image shatters. We must cope with a new set of rules, and our identity is temporarily on hold. These are very scary moments in life.” The film encapsulates Jacob’s struggle to keep hold of his sense of self, as his body strains towards Vampirism and the violence inherent in his new nature slowly germinates, forcing him to make the choice between who he is and what he must be to survive. Leberecht nimbly skips over the fathoms-deep pit of cliches synonymous with the genre and gives “the vampire movie” a new lease of life with a more introverted sense of drama and horror to the hideous reality of Jacob’s condition.
We’re used to seeing vampires as monstrous or sexual icons in cinema, MIDNIGHT SON’s aim is refreshingly sincere with its focus on the humanity of Jacob’s situation as an affliction as the film gathers pace towards a climatic ending, that both acknowledges the reality of the blood lust, but more importantly satisfies Jacob and Mary’s deeper need for a connection in the urban landscape of LA. I would recommend this film to anyone who is a fan of Gothic horror as it really will get under your skin and make you re-evaluate “the vampire movie”, hopefully brushing away the cringey TWILIGHT/ DEAD BOYS connotations that spring to mind and move the genre back towards something more cohesive and intelligent.
MIDNIGHT SON is released in the UK 11th January 2013.