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Film Review: 'Midnight Son'

★★☆☆☆
Scott Leberecht's lo-fi horror Midnight Son (2011) follows Jacob (Zak Kilberg), an anaemic young man with a problem - no matter what he eats he is always starving. Added to that is the fact that he is plagued by a condition which causes his skin to burn upon contact with sunlight. "It's like you're a vampire," says a girl he meets, Mary (Maya Parish), which sets him to thinking of a possible solution. Because of his aversion to daylight, Jacob works the night shift as a security guard and lives in isolation in his basement flat, where he paints pictures of a sun he never sees and attempts to satisfy his hunger with junk food and - increasingly - blood.

Our cinematic culture is currently drenched in horror re-imaginings, most of which, unfortunately, lack for real imagination. Leberecht's film is an attempt at an arthouse approach, channelling George A. Romero's 1976 classic Martin in its attempts to imbue vampirism with something like realism, yet with an independent sensibility. Jacob's world is a familiar night time Los Angeles environment of empty office buildings and tungsten orange streets, stylishly realised with a throbbing low-end soundtrack. The performances are, on the whole, decent, with Jo D. Jonz being particularly villainous as a hospital nurse who agrees to supply Jacob with blood at a price, but there's little else to recommend.

Ultimately, the clichés on show are almost impossible to avoid and there's something about the film that seems dated. Jacob visits a video rental store and, in an attempt to understand what's happening to him, watches the original Fright Night (1985). Why not the remake? Why not a DVD? Even the fact that his name is Jacob (given the popularity of the Twilight franchise) seems a blandly unknowing misstep. The whole film feels like a script developed in the eighties, perhaps following on from Tony Scott's The Hunger (1983), and more importantly as if a whole raft of vampire movies from The Vampire's Kiss (1988) to Twilight and the True Blood TV series had never happened.

To be fair to Leberecht et al, the aforementioned drawbacks aren't all the film's own fault, but from a story point of view as well there are things which go clunk in the night. A subplot involving Jacob's artwork clangs as particularly unbelievable. For true devotees of the genre, this is a well made and cool looking entry, but anyone expecting something akin to the wonderful generic subversion of Tomas Alfredson's Swedish sleeper hit Let the Right One In (2008) will be almost certainly disappointed.

John Bleasdale

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