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Thursday, July 12, 2012

MIDNIGHT SON -- DVD review by porfle

Jacob (Zak Kilberg) is already a little weird--he burns in the sunlight and must remain nocturnal, living alone in a basement apartment and working the night shift as an office building security guard--but now he seems to be developing a ravenous appetite that can't be satisfied by food.  The janitor where he works (Tracey Walter) jokingly suggests that since the human body stops growing at 25, and since Jacob is now 24, perhaps he's on the verge of transforming caterpillar-like into a new being.  He happens to be right, but MIDNIGHT SON (2011) isn't about butterflies--it's about vampires.

Writer-director Scott Leberecht pays homage to the standard vampire flick here and there, especially when Jacob rents the original "Fright Night" to see if it can shed any light on his new condition, but this story is more concerned with what it would be like to be a vampire in the real world.  When Jacob discovers that his newfound hunger is for blood, he must find various ways to procure it while hiding his ghastly addiction from the rest of the world.  (One of the film's subtle bits of humor comes when he tries to order whole human blood over the phone.)

Eventually he ends up dealing with a hospital worker named Marcus (Jo D. Jonz) who first supplies him with expired human blood and then, for a price, something a little fresher.  Jason's moral strength is thus tested when it clashes with his unquenchable thirst.  This sick and ill-fated relationship gives MIDNIGHT SON some of its most horrific moments as Marcus' methods become more extreme and he draws Jacob into some truly disturbing situations. 

In the middle of all this, naturally, comes romantic interest Mary (Maya Parish), whom he meets selling candy and cigarettes on the street corner.  She's attracted by his "lost boy" quality until he starts doing strange little things like biting her throat during lovemaking and sporting day-glo eyes at odd moments. 

Parish is endearingly effective as Mary and we empathize with her confusion over Jacob's behavior as she tries to reach out to him, gradually realizing that there's something really wrong with the pale, frail loner besides a skin disorder and a social dysfunction. 

The film's pace is deliberate, almost dreamlike, while building slowly and inexorably toward a conclusion that, while lacking the jaw-dropping quality of a David Cronenberg finale, is nevertheless memorably disturbing and even exhilarating.  Along the way there are a number of standout scenes as Jacob's "condition" compels him to strike out violently when vexed (as a rude office executive discovers to his regret) while suffering flashbacks of brutal attacks he can't quite recall committing.  With the murder of a female office worker outside the building comes a doggedly inquisitive cop (Larry Cedar as Detective Ginslegh) who helps ratchet up the suspense in the film's second half. 

Leberecht's sure-handed direction and the imaginative cinematography by Lyn Montcrief give the film a look that transcends its meager budget.  The cast is uniformly good, with Kilberg's bleary-eyed restraint contrasting nicely with Parish's nervous energy.  As Marcus, Jo D. Jonz does a great job with his character's extremes and the various shadings in between.  Arlen Escarpeta is also good as Marcus' little brother Russell, who gets caught up unwillingly in the increasingly dark proceedings.  Tracey Walter (BATMAN, AT CLOSE RANGE) is a welcome presence in his brief but important role as Jacob's co-worker.

The DVD from Image Entertainment is in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby 5.1 sound.  No subtitles, but closed-captioning is available.  Extras include deleted scenes, cast and crew interviews, a trailer, and an entertaining commentary track featuring Leberecht, Kilberg, Parish, and Jonz. 

MIDNIGHT SON is one of those horror movies that tries to get at the source of the folklore--in this case, how the more outlandish vampire legends over the years might have originated with normal people suddenly succumbing to a bizarre genetic disorder--and does so in a creative and compelling way.  What it lacks in expensive gore effects is made up for with some gruesomely effective situations and lots and lots of blood.  And while it does explore the emotional consequences of Jacob's condition, it doesn't go all emo on us like some of the more recent vampire tales.  In other words, this is definitely not your sister's "Twilight." 

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