With the plethora of vampire films out there, it’s a brave debut director indeed to tackle one of the most well trodden genres of recent small and big screen offerings. However, Scott Leberecht’s debut feature Midnight Son toys with the genre and portrays it as an affliction or aliment in his low-budget film – and it has a refreshing and intimate take made all the better for its sound directing and casting of exciting, relative newcomer Zak Kilberg as the afflicted.
Kilberg plays Jacob, a young nightshift security guard who lives his life in the shadows after being isolated by a rare skin disorder that means he cannot expose himself to sunlight. Having recently witnessed a dramatic increase in hunger, Jacob cannot understand what is happening to him. Only after a cup full of animal blood from the local slaughterhouse can he quell his strange hunger pangs.
His world is turned upside down when he meets local bartender Mary (Maya Parish) at a club and falls for her. After Mary has a nosebleed, Jacob finds his tastes change, worsening his condition and making him crave human blood instead. Unfortunately, a series of local murders leads the law to suspect him as the prime suspect while he tries to come to terms with his ‘illness’ and his new feelings for Mary.
Granted, the idea of turning bloodsucking into an aliment has been touched upon before on the screen, but Leberecht cuts out any of the sexual references and ‘glamour’ normally associated, concentrating of the debilitating nature as social and health hindrance. There is nothing attractive about living a life in the shadows as Jacob does, and not having any expert advice to hand magnifies this film’s gritty remoteness and ambiguity that it so deftly portrays.
Coupled with very little standard imagery usually associated with this genre – it even challenges such with a crucifix scene, there is a quiet and disturbing ‘brooding’ sense to it, along with an all-consuming desperation for affection as you wonder just where Jacob’s story will go. Its parallels with a drug-addled lifestyle go hand in hand, what with a newly ‘addicted’ Jacob relying on seedy handouts to stop the pain, and his new girlfriend and her own private addiction. Kilberg is highly impressive in this, sensitively portraying Jacob as a victim, rather than anything else sinister and foreboding of the night. There is never any sense of threat from his character, even when his inner demon gets the better of him, or confident swagger in his actions. The irony is he is trying to preserve some resemblance of ‘normality’ and ‘humanity’.
Leberecht sadly falls into the sensational commercial trap with a brutal ‘gangster-style’ scene of violence near the end, taking the film out of its quietly affecting premise of affliction and addiction, and into something more mainstream for a split second. However, the nature of where the situation is escalating to does require something more visually shocking for us to revel in the end scene of glorious, blood-splattering elation as a new chapter is born.
Midnight Son is a bold if rough-around-the-edges delivery of semi-cult-making status that throws new and unorthodox light on the genre while highlighting both Leberecht and Kilberg as rising talent to watch.