A teen vam­pire not in ‘Twi­light’s’ vein

The Washington Post - - MOVIES - BY ALAN ZILBERMAN goin­gout­guide@wash­post.com

Milo, the hero of Michael O’Shea’s “The Trans­fig­u­ra­tion,” is ob­sessed with re­al­ism in vam­pire movies — the sparkling vam­pires of “Twi­light” do not in­ter­est him. In­stead, he be­lieves there are peo­ple who sim­ply need to drink blood. “The Trans­fig­u­ra­tion” treats this ob­ses­sion se­ri­ously. This is not a hor­ror film, ex­actly, but a dark drama in which a self-im­posed curse is the only re­prieve from a neigh­bor­hood where vi­o­lence is rou­tine.

Eric Ruf­fin plays Milo, a teenager liv­ing in a hous­ing project, with sullen in­tel­li­gence. He lives with his older brother, Lewis (Aaron Moten) — their par­ents are dead — but Lewis can­not pro­tect him from bul­lies who hang out­side their build­ing. Milo’s pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with vam­pirism is deadly: He reg­u­larly stalks strangers, kills them and drinks their blood . O’Shea films Milo dis­pas­sion­ately, and the fre­quent non­ver­bal act­ing forces Ruf­fin to cre­ate a sym­pa­thetic per­for­mance out of si­lence. It’s a de­mand­ing role, es­pe­cially for a young ac­tor, yet Ruf­fin pulls it off.

Milo meets So­phie (Chloe Levine), a young woman who just moved into the build­ing and is tar­geted by the neigh­bor­hood bul­lies be­cause she is white. “The Trans­fig­u­ra­tion” fol­lows their ten­der, awk­ward re­la­tion­ship, while Milo’s se­cret threat­ens to up­end it all. O’Shea doesn’t pull any punches: He films killing as a heinous, point­less act, and Milo’s “vam­pirism” is an im­per­fect way to as­sert some con­trol.

“The Trans­fig­u­ra­tion” is a lit­tle me­an­der­ing, at least un­til its fi­nal min­utes. Milo fi­nally earns a slice of wis­dom, which arrives with an el­e­gant, blood-chill­ing so­lu­tion to his prob­lems. O’Shea fol­lows his twisted premise to its in­ex­orable con­clu­sion, so his film is ul­ti­mately more un­nerv­ing than sad.

Un­rated. At An­ge­lika Pop-Up at Union Mar­ket. Con­tains lan­guage, vi­o­lence and sex­ual sit­u­a­tions. 97 min­utes.

STRAND RE­LEAS­ING

It’s not easy be­ing a vam­pire in a hous­ing project, but Eric Ruf­fin makes it work with somber, of­ten non­ver­bal as­sur­ance as Milo.

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