Between Let the Right One In and Raw. The Transfiguration – movie review

Outcast teenager with shady past and obscure life meets youngster who’s bullied and abused by a bunch of assholes. They team up, go through that stuff and grow up together.

No, guys, I’m not reviewing the ground-breaking Swedish horror drama Let the Right One In (2008). Instead, the one mentioned above is the storyline of The Transfiguration, a 2017 film written and directed by Michael O’Shea at his filmmaking debut.

Transfiguration 1But, yes, this movie follows the ‘Let the Right One In formula’ pretty close: this time around, though, the vampire teenager is Milo, an African-American boy who lives with his older brother, and the person in need to be rescued is a girl, Sophie. What an original switch!

I usually really like this kind of movies (with the exception of Raw, lately), but, in the end, The Transfiguration left me indifferent.

My main issue consists of the constant references to the Swedish movie, to the point that The Transfiguration feels like an utter rip-off of Let the Right One In. Sure, throughout the runtime (97 minutes), the characters quote or mention the Swedish film, but that doesn’t save this movie from feeling like an exploitative attempt to reuse successful material.

Transfiguration 3.jpgYet, the pacing is quite unbalanced. Even though the film runs for a short time, it feels long and I found myself bored quite a few times. There are some scenes which are deeply effective, even gut-wrenching at points, but between them you have to go through elongated dialogues or shots that have nothing of interest to tell.

Overall, the sensation I got from watching The Transfiguration was to look at a very ambitious project which execution was just the same thing I’ve seen before. Perhaps I just didn’t get it.

Before you complain by saying: “Oh, you should stick to IT and Annabelle: Creation”, I want to remind you that I often like the so-called ‘artsy’ movies. This year, I pretty much loved The Evil Within and The Eyes of my Mother. However, an ‘artsy’ film must have an interesting story to tell and an unpretentious way to develop it, otherwise it would fall flat.

That’s not what happens with The Transfiguration.

Transfiguration 2.jpgNevertheless, I don’t dislike this movie. To be frank, there are too many good features to call it bad. For instance, the production values are great: the score (copied from, you guessed it, Let the Right One In) is appropriate, the photography is very neat and the cinematography is astounding.

Also, the acting is rather decent, overall. It’s just a shame that the characters have been written poorly, so that the actors can’t shine as much as they could have.

Besides, as I stated before, there are a few in-your-face, memorable scenes: rather disturbing and graphic stuff, I’d say. Again, I just wish this dark side of the story was analysed a bit more in-depth to make the movie more sombre and depressing. I’m not saying The Transfiguration is an uplifting film, mind you, but it would have worked better as a stronger downer, in my opinion.

In conclusion, this is a quite forgettable – but rather decent – horror drama, one you can enjoy in a day in which you feel ‘artsy’. I do like the references to pop-culture vampires throughout, because they make for some genuinely entertaining sequences, in a very subtle, innocent way. Overall, though, I wasn’t impressed by The Transfiguration and I thought its British director’s aim was to make a great film. Which, unfortunately, it is not. Cheers!