Toronto After Dark Review: Midnight Son
Review by Kayley Viteo
I can’t count the amount of times Midnight Son was billed as the anti-Twilight at Toronto After Dark. First, are we really at the point where everything with a gothic romance is compared (positively or negatively) to something chiefly aimed at thirteen year olds? I think we’re all grown-ups, and can therefore let sparkling vampires lie. Second, the comparison – though technically favorable – does Midnight Son a disservice. The comparison is not at all apt for a truly unique, dark and rather quirky film.
Midnight Son tells the story of Jacob (Zak Kilberg), an awkwardly charismatic night security guard with a sun problem. Diagnosed with an extreme sun allergy to the sun, Jacob spends his free time painting sunsets and dealing with his increasingly complex “sickness.” Trouble is there’s a new symptom – wanting blood – which nears its ugly head just as a new romance (Maya Parish) enters the picture.
If I had to sum up Midnight Son with a comparison, it would be Garden State meets vampires. Both have likeable, though complicated, characters that have a strange, passionate relationship from the start. That’s chiefly why Midnight Son works – though at its core somewhat predictable, the modern, fast-paced take on a subgenre even more tired than zombies is engaging and addictive. Even with the pathway clearly laid out (romance, conflict, danger, resolution), there’s still some shocks (particularly the final scene) that made this admittedly jaded horror fan grin.
Midnight Son couldn’t be what it is without its fresh, brisk script, and the actors really take the film to another level. Kilberg is great as Jacob, creating a character that isn’t too broody or otherwise stereotypical; instead, this is normal guy dealing with an abnormal affliction. Parish, playing the would-be lover, is also fantastic in a similarly complicated role. Both are dealing with addictions of some sort, both find navigating their new romance difficult, and both are realistic, multi-layered characters. Additionally, though it moves at a quick pace, Midnight Son’s narrative has a measured progression that builds nicely. The climax of the story is grisly and yet still romantic, with the final, beautifully macabre image seared into my brain. (And I love it.)
Shot in an incredibly twenty-two days in 2007 and funded solely by loans and donations, Midnight Son is absolutely effective. The director summed the film up nicely in his Q&A: “what happens when our bodies change and we don’t understand why?” In that sense, Midnight Son is similar to Ginger Snaps, only male-centric, but still with a strong female character. It succeeds in making a “biologically believable” vampire film that shows a remarkable restraint in picking and choosing elements from the vast mythology. There are no garlic bulbs or hypnotism or similarly ridiculous things, here; Midnight Son is less about the vampire than the human element within it. For that reason, among the others discussed in this review, Midnight Son is yet another must-see from Toronto AfterDark.
Midnight Son played with Adder’s Bite, which is a terrifically hard to explain short film. The closest I can get is that it’s a dark look at what goes on underneath a public pool. I found the Adder’s Bite lyrical and well choreographed, but didn’t enjoy the bookends. Still an interesting short film, however, particularly in how the focus is on movement versus dialogue.