Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. This time around, I had a chance to chat with Scott Leberecht, the talented director of MIDNIGHT SON, a truly fantastic take on vampirism. I raved about this film last year when it hit the festival circuit and now, MIDNIGHT SON is available on DVD for all to see. Here’s what Scott had to say about the film when I caught up with him a while back. And after the interview, I’ve posted my review of MIDNIGHT SON. Enjoy!
AMBUSH BUG (BUG): Well I just wanted to let you know I did see the film, MIDNIGHT SON… I think it was about six months ago…
SCOTT LEBERECHT (SL): Oh, wow.
BUG: Yeah, I got a screener for it when it was touring one of the festivals. I’m not sure which one, but I really loved it. I posted a review on Ain’t It Cool News about it. I don’t know if you saw it there or not.
SL: Yeah, I did. I remember now, I was so excited to see that on Ain’t It Cool, yeah.
BUG: Can you tell people who might not be familiar with the film a little bit about it?
SL: Sure, I mean I would say for people who don’t know about MIDNIGHT SON, it is a movie about a guy with an affliction that’s very similar to what a vampire is afflicted with, but it’s more of a character study, something where you will watch the movie and probably think and wonder to yourself what it would probably really be like to be a vampire, to have to carry on this normal life, have a job, try and have relationships, and yet you can’t go outside during the day and be in the sun and you must drink blood to live. How would you deal with that? So I think that’s the big thing that makes MIDNIGHT SON unique, that it doesn’t tackle the genre or the myth of the vampire in a glamorous or spectacle way, it’s much more gritty and realistic.
BUG: Definitely and I’m sure… Has anyone else come to you with that it reminds them a little bit of FIGHT CLUB? Or no?
SL: Oh no, that’s fascinating. Yeah, that’s great. I love that comparison. I love that movie.
BUG: I do too, but I think it’s mainly because of just how the character is a loner. The character is kind of in search of somebody or something and they kind of also have this kind of secret life that they are trying to understand and it’s very different than FIGHT CLUB, but for some reason while I was watching it, it reminded me of it.
SL: Well both have the search for identity as a theme for sure.
BUG: Also because of all of the back alley stuff with the blood. I guess it reminded me of the scene when they are stealing cellulite out of the dumpsters.
SL: I can see that.
BUG: And one of the films that also comes up is VAMPIRE’S KISS with Nicolas Cage. What other films influenced you upon making this film? When you’re making a vampire film, there are so many vampire films out there. Did you use any as a template?
SL: Not really. I mean I was told about MARTIN after I had already written the first draft of the film of MIDNIGHT SON and I hadn’t even known about that. Someone had read the script and said “This is a lot like MARTIN…” and then I went and checked it out, but as far as vampire movies go one of my favorites is FRIGHT NIGHT, but FRIGHT NIGHT isn’t anything like MIDNIGHT SON. I think that I’m just a big sort of character guy, you know like I love movies that explore their characters.
BUG: Who did the paintings? The paintings that he did in the film, who was the actual painter of those?
SL: I did them actually.
BUG: You did? They’re really great. It actually shows him painting that, so was that you painting when they show him doing the brush strokes?
SL: Yeah. Well actually that was the actor, but I actually did that painting on the set that day and he kind of finished it up. Yeah, that was something that was basically because we were on a limited budget I knew that there was no way I was going to pay a painter for all of the paintings I needed.
BUG: Yeah. Any time that you do a vampire movie TWILIGHT always comes up… Have you heard from people who might be TWILIGHT fans? This is a pretty intense movie. It’s a quiet movie, but it really builds to a really high intensity towards the end there. What’s been the fan feedback like from that?
SL: Well the final shot of the film…everyone sort of comments on that image, so yeah I think that Mary becoming infected and her sort of feeding frenzy… There’s a lot of comments on that last image.
BUG: Okay and as far as the idea of it being an addiction and with the guy being sort of acting like his pusher, the medical attendant, where did all of those ideas sort of come from as far as how this whole script came together?
SL: You know it really was just thinking practically about what I would do if I had to find blood and human blood specifically, because at first he’s able to drink animal blood because he’s a butcher, but when he eats Mary’s blood he now has to have human blood and that’s all he wants. So my first thought would be to bride an orderly to get in a hospital or something to try to get me some blood. This just means you’d have a more… as opposed to trying to bride an orderly and convince an orderly to help me, it would be to do what Jacob did, which was start dumpster diving in a biohazard bin.
BUG: Definitely. Where was this film shot?
SL: It was all shot in Los Angeles. Now there were a couple of sort of pick up shots or inserts that I shot in San Fransisco, but the bulk of it was shot in Los Angeles.
BUG: Okay, and now that you have this film out, what else is coming up for you?
SL: Well you know I wish I could talk about it, but it’s something where I’m involved with some other people and I know they probably wouldn’t want me to talk about it. You know, but I am writing screenplays. I still have some ideas that I’m generating now. Man, I wish I could talk about it, but I just don’t want to screw up anything. (Laughs)
BUG: Sure. I totally understand. Well would you consider yourself a horror guy? Is that the genre that you want to work in? Are you interested in other genres as well?
SL: You know what? I love horror and I think that the reason why I love it is because there are things that you can explore in the horror genre that aren’t necessarily things that you would explore in any other genre and a lot of them are about more survival and sort of more basic human emotion. The only thing that is frustrating for me about horror is that it seems like what usually does get financing is stuff where it is straight horror, it is straight slasher or a ghost story or something where it’s easy to call it a horror and put it in that box. MIDNIGHT SON is a huge risk in that we were afraid for a long time that no one would know what to do with it, but luckily Peter Block at Image fell in love with it and a lot of the festivals were able to see what we were trying to do, that we were making a vampire movie and we were making a movie with many horror elements, but it’s hard. It was a love story and a character study. So to me the genre offers such wonderful opportunities to explore really great stuff, but at the same time I don’t just want to make a movie about kinetics or bodies in hot shit type films have people chopping up people or people are chasing after people and stuff like that.
BUG: This is definitely much more of a thinking man’s vampire story and those are the types that I really like. I focus mainly on horror films and I’ve seen so many vampire films, it takes something pretty special to set it apart from the rest of them and I think this movie is one of them. As far as vampires in particular, how did you come up with the rules of this disease that the kid is afflicted with here?
SL: I can tell you that the reason why I chose or I wanted to narrow down the vampire order or the thing that make a vampire things… and especially like how he became a vampire is something that every time I wrote something where I gave away or told he story of how he became a vampire I felt like it took a lot of the power away from the affliction, so for all of us you know we all go through puberty. We’ve all had something happen to our bodies where we feel sick and the doctors can’t tell us exactly what it is and the mystery is a lot scarier than knowing what something is. Then on top of the mystery and fear of the unknown, you have the embarrassment that goes along with it. Again, it is a big puberty metaphor. It’s like a thing that happens to our bodies and we don’t understand what’s happening that we are really embarrassed about and we don’t have anyone to really talk to about it. So that was really the heart of it and so out of that came the idea of it being about a vampire. So what I wanted to do was strip away any power that a vampire would have that would seem something that would be cool or awesome. I didn’t want anyone watching my character be all angsty and upset and lonely and wondering what the fuck his problem if he can fly, you know? Or turn into a bat or do cool stuff. I wanted this to be more of a coming of age story for a vampire, somebody who had to deal with the puberty story of a vampire, like when they are awkward and they don’t get it. Now Jacob is going to be powerful at the end, everything he’s going to be, but my idea is not all vampires can start that way.
BUG: Would you every follow this movie up with what happens next?
SL: Oh absolutely. I actually did write an epilogue where it’s set five years later and they are living together in a house in some northern Canadian home or near Alaska or something where the sun is really low, but basically there’re months of night… Anyway and that they would be sitting on a front porch with a toddler.
BUG: Oh cool.
SL: And Mary would come out of the house with a sippy cup and give it to the toddler and it would start drinking the sippy cup, but we would never show like what’s in it. So the idea that they would somehow have this life that they were able to make for themselves to fit into the world and no one really knows what they are.
BUG: Very cool. Best of luck with the film. It’s a really fantastic film, one of my favorite ones that I’ve seen this year.
SL: Hey thank you so much man.
BUG: All right, thanks a lot. Take care. Have a good night.
SL: All right, you too. Bye.
BUG: MIDNIGHT SON is now available on DVD and digital download. Below is my review of the film posted in a previous AICN HORROR column.
MIDNIGHT SON (2011)Directed by Scott Leberecht
Written by Scott Leberecht
Starring Zak Kilberg, Maya Parish, Jo D. Jonz, Arlen Escarpeta, Larry Cedar, Tracey Walter
Find out more on the webite and on its Facebook Page.
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
MIDNIGHT SON could be best described as a modern day MARTIN with a little bit of the indie film HABIT tossed in for good measure. Those familiar with those two films will see some of the same themes at play here. Though MIDNIGHT SON doesn’t pull any punches admitting that the title character named Jacob is undeniably a vampire, like MARTIN, it provides an intimate look at a man who doesn’t know what he is and it trying unsuccessfully to find out. Of course, his one detriment is that he doesn’t know where to find these answers in a world where vamps are only found in midnight matinees. Like HABIT, which highlighted the need for blood as a metaphor for drug addiction, once he tastes human blood, Jacob quickly starts a downward spiral into madness and chaos.
Despite its similarities to these two films, MIDNIGHT SON stands on its own when it comes to acting, direction, and story. Writer/director Scott Leberecht takes his sweet old time, relying on many a quiet moment allowing Jacob’s character to silently shine through as his hunger develops and overcomes him. This film definitely snowballs with Jacob first discovering a taste for raw meat, but when that fails to quell his grumbling stomach, he ups the ante by trying to break into a hospital hazardous waste dumpster looking for discarded blood. When an employee catches Jacob in the search for blood, he exploits the need, stringing Jacob along like a drug dealer to a junkie.
I also really loved the patience this story has and the unconventional ways it uses well tread vampires standards. We’ve seen the beast within rage uncontrollably during a sexually charged moment, but we haven’t seen the vamp rage within triggered by a cocaine nosebleed. Later moments depict the vampire’s aversion to the sun in effective and imaginative ways.
The acting here is top tier. Zak Kilberg, who plays Jacob, is reserved and teeters between being wholesome boy next door and quiet serial killer type. Looking a little bit like a cross between Joseph Gordon Levitt and Ed Norton, Kilberg does a great job bringing to life this complex character. Props should also be given to Maya Parish in a brave performance as a girl attracted to Jacob but sporting secrets of her own. Character actors Larry Cedar (DEADWOOD) and Tracy Walter (BATMAN, CONAN THE BARBARIAN) add some nice secondary performances here as well. With Jo D. Jonz offering a lot of bite as the despicable blood pusher taking advantage of Jacob’s addiction.
Though not necessarily original, Leberecht delivers a truly harrowing experience in MIDNIGHT SON as Jacob discovers that he is not a human being, but a creature of the night. This film is not without a heavy dose of angst, but unlike TWILIGHT, which dumbs things town to dullard degrees, MIDNIGHT SON is a sophisticated film about addiction, relationships, and understanding who one is. Lacking in schmaltz and lameness seen in heaping doses in TRUE BLOOD, VAMPIRE DIARIES, and TWILIGHT, MIDNIGHT SON is a much more effective and touching take on vampirism.
See ya for our regular AICN HORROR column on Friday!
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/reviewer/co-editor of AICN Comics for over ten years. He has written comics such as MUSCLES & FIGHTS, MUSCLES & FRIGHTS, VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, WONDERLAND ANNUAL 2010 & NANNY & HANK (soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He is also a regular writer for FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND & has co-written their first ever comic book LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in late 2012 as an 100-pg original graphic novel). Mark has just announced his new comic book miniseries GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK from Zenescope Entertainment to be released March-August 2012. Also look for Mark's exciting arc on GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-80 which begins in August 2012.
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