So wait, hold the phone. You mean to tell me vampires are supposed to be scary and malicious beings, capable of inflicting devastating pain on their quest for life-saving blood? Aren’t they supposed to sparkle, look pretty, fight werewolves with bulging abs, and date actresses who only have one emotion?! No, they aren’t, and that’s why creator Scott Leberecht can be added to the list of respectable directors attempting to make vampires a bona fide horror demon yet again.
Midnight Son certainly gets to the gritty core of realistic vampire transformation, putting the softcore tendencies of Twilight to shame, but rests more on the dramatic side of horror without entering Stake Land type atrocities. Less enthralling and heart pounding than the latter without a doubt, but still a much better love story than anything Stephanie Meyer ever cranked out!
Midnight Son is parts grotesque and vile, really digging into the gross habits a vampire diverts to. Main character Jacob starts as a mild-mannered man with a supposed nasty skin condition, but we follow his despicable journey down a blood sucking road of discovery. Audiences aren’t alerted to his new lifestyle in small doses and aren’t left on edge, as Jacob’s life mirrors exactly what a vampire’s life should be – violent and dangerous. Live one place and you’ll be flushed out, live in another and you won’t have an area to store your victims.
Life becomes an actual daily struggle for Jacob as he attempts to fit in with society, something astoundingly difficult for a creature who can’t step foot into the sunlight. There’s a true realization of the horrors that come along with being a vampire, as Leberecht pulls the drama and despair out of our cursed character. Few films show the true submergence into a dark vampire metamorphosis, which is something our director depicts with stunning realism.
Actor Zak Kilberg plays the title role of Jacob with genuine and gritty charm, only aiding in the overall grounded atmosphere. I thought I recognized his face from Zombie Strippers!, but I wasn’t expecting such a power charged performance from a guy I only remember playing a bit part in an underground B-Movie.
Jacob is a complex character because while it was made clear he is in fact a vampire and shows the tell-tale signs, he physically lacks the stereotypical gothic look including pointy teeth and slicked back black hair. Kilberg has to convince us he’s turning into a vampire with minimal visual aids, without losing viewers to any stretch based conclusions. The young actor visibly accomplishes such with his harrowing and crushing portrayal of Jacob, conjuring emotions of both sympathy and fear from a character stuck at the strangest of crossroads.
Now I stressed how Leberecht utilizes effective drama to tell the story of Jacob for a reason, preparing some fans for a film they probably won’t want to see. Midnight Son is a slow burn event in every sense of the word, mixing horror and romance in a twisted and touching manner. There are few scenes of actual throat puncturing and only a handful of scenes showing any type of attack, making Leberecht’s film more about the psychological damage being done to Jacob, eating away his sanity and all he thought logical.
The only drawback to the sluggish nature of pacing comes from serious lulls of anything truly exciting, more or less just watching Jacob go about his daily routine, except now he drinks blood. At times the film feels like it relapses on itself, watching Jacob get to a certain point in the story before his new tendencies surface and he has to shamefully slink away to start over again the next day.
The strongest sense of these feelings can be noted in the relationship Jacob has with love interest Maya Parish, going against the stereotype that vampires are suave romantics. It became tiresome after a while watching Jacob try to make advances that just end in awkward embarrassment, falling into a Twilight-esque pattern of “I love you, but I don’t want to drink your blood.” In this instance, Midnight Son is nothing we haven’t seen before, although Leberecht is able to do so with a much greater connection to reality than others.
So all be it a good and entirely watchable movie, there’s a certain spark missing that prevents Midnight Son from breaking the “great film” barrier. Leberecht should be commended for his ability to turn a low-budget independent flick into somewhat of a surprise success, and Zak Kilberg deserves to be recognized for what should be his breakout performance, but an overall genre buster savior – I think not. This is a film for the more artsy and intelligent horror fan, bored by the mindless slashers of today, and not for everyone. The only niche audience this film gets a full recommendation for is the hardcore vampire lovers, who will indulge in a brilliant transformation displayed by Leberecht and Kilberg, watching some justice be done for the vampire genre once again.
I hope Midnight Son is one of those films that launches the careers of everyone involved, not defines it, because there is some serious talent just waiting to make a mainstream impact prominent both on and off the screen.