JANUARY 11, 2012
SOURCE: THEATRICAL (PREMIERE SCREENING)
Ordinarily I wouldn’t want to drive down to Santa Monica on a week night (or ever, come to think of it, but even less so on a week night), but it’s been a while since I’ve seen a good new vampire movie – all of the ones I’ve enjoyed recently (save some ironic enjoyment of Breaking Dawn, I guess) are older films. Thus, if I liked Midnight Son, I’d have something new to champion, having seen it before its release. And if I didn't, well, at least it was free and I got to see a couple of pals. But I liked it AND saw pals! Everything worked out nicely.
What works most about the film is its steady build toward a fairly surprising ending. Following in the footsteps of movies like Habit, there’s a not too thinly veiled metaphor for vampire-as-drug-addiction here, and usually those movies go down a certain path that this one avoids. At its heart is an awkward romance between our guy (Jacob) and Mary, a girl he randomly meets one night and connects with. She’s a cokehead, but who is he to judge – dude is starting to enjoy the taste of blood (including her own, from a bad coke bump – one of the ickiest “first taste” scenes I can recall).
Hilariously, they even take the drug metaphor a step further than usual, with a guy who apparently goes around draining folks of blood and selling it like drugs (he even gives a free bag, hooking Jacob in, and then drives up the price the next time around). Replace the blood with any drug, and this is a fairly typical “drugs sure do ruin lives” movie – there’s even a scene where Jacob shows up all “strung out” and causing a scene, which makes his dealer rough him up a bit. This plotline also goes to some interesting places though – as with a lot of the movie, it sets up things that you will probably assume will go a certain way, only for it to take a turn somewhere and make it a little more interesting and fun.
I did have two quibbles though. One is that the pacing can be a touch slow and repetitive – Jacob and Mary have THREE would-be sex scenes that go wrong for one reason or another, like they’re stuck in a loop from the final reel of some bad romcom where they have a blowout, come back together for some reason, make up, have a blowout… sure, it’s nice that we’re spared the usual lovey dovey shit, and I liked that the movie addresses the reality of two people who don’t really know each other trying to kick-start a relationship when they have things to hide, but it doesn’t change the fact that the plotting can feel a little cramped. There are only about 6 or 7 people of note in the entire movie, and it’s only near the very end that any of them besides Jacob interact with one another – mixing it up a bit might have helped.
I was also a bit confused as to why Jacob suddenly started getting sick. We learn that he’s had this disorder since childhood, but there seems to be no inciting incident for his “thirst”. There’s a bit about how the body grows until the age of 25 and he’s 24 – is this supposed to be the “final stage” of him becoming, essentially, a vampire? If so, what were the other stages? Maybe a couple of the scenes with Mary could have been shortened, with flashbacks showing other “events” that could fill that time? I would assume puberty had its complications or something, but based on what the movie (quite hilariously) shows us, the bulk of the usual vampire weaknesses are nonsense, and he doesn’t even have fangs, so is that it? You’re (we assume) born as a vampire, somewhere in there you find out you can’t go in the sun, and then when you’re almost 25 you wake up one day feeling super hungry and figure out that blood is the only thing that’ll do the trick? And that’s it? For a character driven take on a well-established legend, I think they could have fleshed out their “rules” a bit more – granted they obviously weren’t working with blank checks here, but talk is cheap, no?
Of course, thoughts like that only result from movies that you’re genuinely interested in, with characters you want to know more about. I don’t care in the slightest about how the kids in Spiderhole ended up homeless, or why our hero in Beneath The Darkness stopped running track, because there wasn’t any reason to WANT more than what they were offering. Here, I could have easily enjoyed another half hour of the tale – I realize this is a bit of a compli-sult, but if I didn’t point it out, the review would be too short. I went in knowing almost nothing, you should too.
One thing I WILL point out just so you’re prepared is that the movie was shot a few years ago, so the “ancient” phones and (for LA folks) plans to go to Spaceland (it closed in 2010) aren't odd stylistic choices. There’s also a plot point revolving around a video store membership card, something that might date it a bit as such places continue to close (indeed, I just discovered one of the last two Blockbusters in my area is now closing as well, which may be why this particular bit stuck out). Apparently they had shot the film and then lost their money for post, so it took a while to raise the cash to finish it (Blair Witch guru Eduardo Sanchez was one of its saviors – respect). Sometimes movies like that are total messes by the time they come out, victims of too much second-guessing, re-editing, etc, so I was quite happy to discover that it bared almost no signs of a troubled road to get to the screen. AND it’s worth seeing, making it even better.
The film will debut on Fearnet; if you’re like me you probably don’t have the channel in your lineup yet. Call 1-877-FEAR-247 and tell them your cable provider/zip code (calling your own cable provider and asking for Fearnet can’t hurt, either), because if they’re picking up indies like this for distribution, they’re clearly on the right track to doing this right (they’re also behind Adam Green and Joe Lynch’s horror-themed sitcom Holliston), so kudos to them. And if you’re reading HORROR Movie A Day you must be excited about the prospect of having a station dedicated to the genre, so do your part to help it succeed.
What say you?