Created just as the vogue for the trials and tribulations of vampirism exploded onto both cinema and television screens in the tail end of the last decade, Scott Leberecht’s debut feature Midnight Son (2011) is a twisting and non-glamorous study of the loneliness and isolation that comes with keeping a dark secret from those around you. Made for just over $3 million and produced by The Blair Witch Project’s (1999) Eduardo Sanchez, Leberecht’s film is economically made and high on ideas, boosted as they are by its conscious tendency to shift focus away from heightened visions in favour of something more realistic, believable and ultimately macabre.
The film tells the story of Jacob (Zak Kilberg), a man confined to a life of quiet solitude due to a rare skin condition that prevents him from being exposed to sunlight. Working as a night shift security guard, Jacob’s seemingly normal existence begins to crumble when an unanticipated thirst for human blood begins to take its toll, leading him to take drastic measures in Los Angeles’ murky underbelly to get his fix. As his blood-lust becomes evermore problematic, and the effects of his worsening (and, most importantly, unspecified) condition intensify, Jacob meets and immediately bonds with Mary, a local bartender with an addiction to cocaine.
Coming to terms with their burgeoning emotions, the two face a shadowy future already fractured by their simultaneous and increasingly deadly addictions. Having wowed audiences when it received its UK premiere at FrightFest, Midnight Son is a well-intentioned and intimate depiction of the journey to recognising and comprehending your inner demons instead of a generic excursion into narrative tropes, made by a filmmaker with an interesting grasp and appreciation of vampire lore. Intentionally shunning the usual stereotypes of the vampire sub-genre – mainly its prehistoric undertones, Leberecht utilises his diverse background in visual effects to pin his tale in a very restrained and contemporary America.
With the focus shifted from the victim to the person struggling to deal with their newfound affliction, the film manages to convey a very astute duality between what is effectively a fictitious condition and the true-to-life pangs of drug addiction. Shot with a voyeuristic, low budget quality by Lyn Moncrief, the strengths of Midnight Son lay with its desire to shy away from providing overt assimilation with this oft-imitated area of horror cinema, and although the tightness of its first half wanes in the second, it’s brisk and engagingly acted by the two sympathetic leads, and boasts all the trappings of a potential cult hit.