IN CINEMAS: 11 January
ON DVD: 11 February
RUNNING TIME: 88 mins
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Jacob is 24 and confined to a life of isolation due to a rare skin disorder that prevents him from being exposed to sunlight. He begins to get increasingly hungry and it seems that nothing can satiate his hunger until he starts to drink butcher shop blood. Feeling better, he goes to a club and meets bar girl and cigarette seller Mary. They are immediately attracted to one another, but Jacob’s actions become increasingly bizarre after he accidentally tastes some of Mary’s blood and realises that human blood is what he really needs…..
Apparently in some quarters Midnight Son has been marketed as a Twilight variant, but one review on the promotional material I received with the DVD of the film called it “the perfect antidote to Twilight“, and indeed it isn’t much like thAT horrible franchise at all, a franchise that for a while had me convinced it would do vampires far more damage than any stake through the heart or blazing sunlight. The directorial debut of special effects artist Scott Leberecht, known for HIS stirling work on a variety of projects from Sleepy Hollow to One Hundred And One Dalmations, it is a film he has not only struggled to complete over several years, but the result was well worth it. This is a bleak, downbeat but very worthwhile film that may not as original as some are saying; comparisons to Martin and Let The Right One In are valid, but it reminded me more of the almost forgotten The Wisdom Of Crocodiles – but it certainly kept me riveted and guessing as to the outcome.
Midnight Son is quite unique in look and feel right from the early scenes which rather movingly detail Jacob’s lonely life. Though set mostly at night, the colours are bright and even bilious, Lyn Moncrief’s evocative photography really showing what night time would actually seem like to somebody who hardly ever sees daylight. From the slightly sickly blue and pink hues of one particular nocturnal walk to the bright red of the inside of Mary’s apartment [I can’t imagine anyone wanting to live in it], this is a film which uses colour strikingly and sometimes cleverly, and destroys any notion you may have that films set at night have to be visually dark and even dull. Of course black is used in some scenes but after a while I almost forgot the film was mostly set nocturnally. Added to this is the odd somnambulistic, almost dreamlike feel of the piece, in which Kays Al-Altrachi’s ambient sounds play a special part. I’m personally fed-up with this type of music, which is of course cheap to produce, being so much in films these days, but it really works in Midnight Son, almost giving it a sense of being both asleep and awake, a rather hazy, druggy quality.
So mix the look and feel of this film and you have something rather interesting, and its story is intriguing enough to leave you unsure as to how it will develop and pan out. It’s told at a very slow pace, and some may feel a few scenes, especially ones of Jacob alone, go on a bit too long but the languid handling seemed most effective to me in helping to give the impression of Jacob’s dreary life in the early scenes and his tormented life after. The film doesn’t seem too interested in gathering much pace even in the final third, but it’s nice to see a film like this that doesn’t feel the need to climax in lots of action. I should say right here that there is still a fair amount of blood, with a few moments of gruesomeness, though most of the especially grisly stuff is more hinted at or just shown partially. In any case, you don’t get any fangs in this movie, which tries to adopt a realistic attitude to vampirism while still sticking to some of its conventions. At times this doesn’t quite work; why all this attempt at believability when for instance a wound can still disappear immediately and eyes can turn catlike?
Overall though as long as you don’t expect tons of vampires jumping around you will probably be very caught up in what is both a very affecting and even relatable [I mean, isn’t one of the reasons Taxi Driver is so powerful and disturbing that we’ve all felt like Travis Bickle at some point in our lives?] study of a person who is isolated from all around him and an off-beat love story. The central couple may not spend ages staring at each other or waffling along about eternal love, but you will want them to sort out their respective issues and live happily ever after. Jacob may have the lion’s share of the troubles, being someone who gets burnt by sunlight, has a worsening addiction to human blood and, it seems, has to bite at the point of orgasm, but Mary is a cocaine addict and actually seems the most needy one of the two. The efforts of her and shy, awkward Jacob to become a ‘real’ couple, to the point of even when they try to have sex, are almost heartbreaking to watch, and I felt a thousand times more involved with these two poor people than Bella and Edward, though the film does take a risk by having Jacob [who, of course, was also a Twilight character] looking rather like Edward Cullen at times.
Fortunately Zak Kilberg does a very good job in what is a hard one to pull off. We have to feel for Jacob and want him to find some kind of happiness, but also need to be a little scared and properly revolted by his habits. Caulin-Young does this very well, and he is matched by Maya Parish who is able to hint at a very troubled past for her character without spelling anything out. It’s just as well they are so good, because the camera is forever lingering on them in close-up, trapping them, preventing them from getting away, and that’s exactly right, because these people are trapped. Without giving anything away, you just know it’s not going to end well. I’m not totally sure what happened at the end, but I wonder if this was intended so you can make up your own interpretation. I love endings which do this though some may be unsatisfied and actually it’s not that different from a previously seen one. It does finish the film on an entirely appropriate image that is both horrifying and tender.
Sometimes it is ambiguous what is going on and some things are unexplained, such as how Jacob develops his condition. These are probably intentional so the viewer is left feeling as dislocated and out-of-synch as its main character. The supporting characters, who include a detective and a hospital porter who supplies addicts with their needs and has an especially horrific way of getting blood, are well played even if some of the plotting involving them becomes a little forced, but then the tale had to develop somehow. For the most part, Midnight Son is a rather haunting and endearing [in the best way] drama, and its universal themes of addiction, unstoppable change and our desperate desire to be a part of something are handled in a way that makes the piece very compelling.
The DVD from Monster Pictures includes:
*Audio commentary with Cast and Crew
*Cast and Crew interviews