Bay of the Living Dead: The Transfiguration–a New Horror Classic
Welcome to Bay of the Living Dead, a regular column about the horror genre.
Michael O’Shea’s The Transfiguration deserves to be talked about. A no budget indie shot primarily in New York City housing projects, the film is a quiet, chilling character study of an African American kid who’s obsessed with vampire movies. Young Milo (Eric Ruffin) might even be a vampire–or maybe he thinks he’s one. Which one is it?
The Transfiguration opens with a shocker of a sequence: Milo is in a public restroom, where he’s locked inside a cubicle with a middle aged man. How they got there is never explained–the man’s throat is bleeding and Milo is leaning over that throat. Before leaving he helps himself to the man’s stash of cash–he quickly leaves the restroom as someone else has come in–for obvious reasons he doesn’t want to be noticed.
Back at home Milo hides his newfound cash away–we’re shown the impressive amount of bills he’s amassed, a chilling suggestion of how many people he may have killed.
So is Milo a vampire? That question is never explicitly answered, but it is made very clear that he’s killing people and drinking their blood. He could be undead, or he could be insane.
For much of the film O’Shea’s camera follows Milo around, almost cinema verite style, as he lives his somewhat sad and depressing day-to-day life. He’s a lonely kid, completely without friends. His parents are dead–he lives in the projects with his much older brother. They’re cordial, but obviously not close. Milo goes to school, does the laundry, and obsessively watches vampire movies.
When Sophie (Chloe Levine) a white girl, moves into the building, Milo finds his first friend. He takes her to see F.W Murnau’s classic vampire chiller Nosferatu (1922) for their first date and tells her all about his favorite bloodsucking movies. Every now and again, Milo kills someone else, always feasting upon their blood.
Slow moving and character driven, The Transfiguration is a disturbing and mesmerizing film. Newcomer Ruffin gives a flawless performance as a young man who may–or may not–be mentally ill. In not telling viewers whether or not Milo has actually turned, auteur O’Shea gives this bizarre story a depth which few horror movies have. Though shot on the gritty real world streets of New York City, O’Shea nonetheless creates a haunting, other worldly sense of dread. O’Shea is a brilliant artist–one can only hope that his first film won’t be his last.
The Transfiguration is now available on DVD at Amazon.
The Darkness (2016)
The Darkness is another low budget scarefest, albeit one with a major star: a slumming Kevin Bacon. It’s a film that was poorly reviewed by critics and audiences alike, though was a moneymaker due to its ultra-low budget. In our humble opinion, the film was unfairly maligned–though we tend to doubt the filmmaker’s claim that his film is based on “actual events”.
The Darkness offers a simple plot: while a family vacations in the Grand Canyon, their adolescent autistic son steals ancient Native stones from a cave. Unbeknownst to everyone, the kid brings home evil spirits–all hell soon breaks loose, literally.
Family members turn on each other. There are sudden, strange appearances of snakes, wolves, and demonic creatures. Will the family figure out what’s causing these disturbances before they’re all destroyed?
While no masterpiece, The Darkness is a fun, silly, and scary roller coaster ride. Bacon and Radha Mitchell are appropriately terrified and effective as the desperate parents determined to save the family. And young David Mazouz is actually quite wonderful in his role as a very disturbed boy–this kid has acting chops and should go places!
The Darkness is now available on DVD and Blu Ray.
For decades a lost film, Deluge was rediscovered in the 1990s when a dubbed-in-Italian print was found in a European vault. That version was released on VHS with English subtitles. Now, thanks to Kino Lorber, purveyors of classic film on DVD/Blu Ray, the original English language print which reportedly thrilled Depression-era audiences, is now available on Blu Ray and on DVD.
Deluge was produced by RKO Radio Pictures, the studio which brought us the original King Kong in 1933–though RKO produced a number of classics, they operated on the edge of bankruptcy and did not survive the 1950s.
A post-apocalyptic science fiction film, Deluge will no doubt remind some viewers of the disaster film The Day After Tomorrow (2004), in which New York City was destroyed. Both films, produced seventy years apart, feature almost identical sequences in which the Statue of Liberty is submerged underneath a giant tidal wave. Deluge takes things one step further: the film shows virtually every building in New York City collapsing during a massive earthquake. As with King Kong, RKO’s special effects department works overtime, producing stunning visuals which are many years ahead of their times.
Most of Deluge focuses on survivors of the apocolypse, three of whom become involved in a soap opera-ish love triangle. This portion of the film drags a bit–its the destruction of New York City that most viewers will want to see. Top billed Deluge star Sidney Blackmer, BTW, achieved cinema immortality 35 years later when he was cast as Roman Castevet, head of the Satanic cult, in Roman Polanski’s masterpiece Rosemary’s Baby.
Hammer Girls (CD, 2015)
Ohio based brothers Theron and Mark Statler offer this charming CD, a tribute to the legendary and lovely ladies who starred in the beloved Hammer horror films. Hammer Films, as readers of a”certain age” will recall, is a British film studio which became known worldwide for the horror films it produced from 1957 until the mid-1970s. Hammer horror films were lush, erotic, scary, and were often based on classic literature such as Frankenstein and Dracula. The company kept its feet firmly planted in the 19th Century–they recently staged a brief comeback when they produced the wildly scary The Woman in Black (2012) starring Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe.
The Hammer Girls CD reaches back to the 1960s, when Hammer Films’ popularity was at it’s peak. The disc opens with Swingin’ With Hammer, a delightfully retro instrumental piece–it reminded us of those hilarious beach party movies which were also popular during Hammer’s heyday. Next comes the title track, Hammer Girls, in which Mark Statler’s country-styled vocals pay homage to the Hammer girls who no doubt fueled his adolescent fantasies.
Most wonderfully, several Hammer ladies appear on the CD. Martine Beswick, who starred in Hammer’s Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971), is heard on a track called Groove. Veronica Carlson, who starred in three Hammer films between 1968-1970, recites a poem in which she recalls her first onscreen kiss–when she was bitten by Count Dracula. Carlson is herself the poem’s author–she also drew the CD’s cover art!
Hammer Goddess Caroline Munro offers an intro to Statler’s cover of the rock-and-roll doo-wop number Blue Moon, a tribute tothe Hammer horror classic The Curse of the Werewolf (1961). And no less than five Hammer ladies join forces for a magnificent recitation of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven.
Hammer horror aficionados couldn’t have asked for a more fun or affectionate tribute to their favorite horror studio. You can order Hammer Girls on Amazon.