Manchester social worker Marjorie (Laura Montgomery Bennett), traumatised by the death by overdose of a boy whose care she was responsible for, takes the case of Nathan (Lennon Leckey), a homeless waif who has been found biting a dog’s neck. She gets Nathan into a halfway house and conducts a series of interviews with the taciturn kid, gradually drawing out a fact we guessed from the first sight of his bloody mouth – Nathan is a vampire.
Writer-director Eric Steele has a couple of tricks up his sleeve with this brief, understated horror film – the general air of Loachian realism suggests that this should follow the likes of The Transformation, which is about a boy who only thinks he’s a vampire … but, as is signalled by a tiny mention of a ‘Dr E. Weyland’ in an article Marjorie finds online, this takes its rules of vampirism and some of its plor developments from Suzy McKee Charnas’ masterly novel The Vampire Tapestry. This vampire is a creature who mimics humanity rather than a person turned into a monster – and instead of fangs, Nathan has a barbed organ under his tongue like a mosquito proboscis (or the stinger Marilyn Chambers has under her armpit in Rabid). Also like Dr Weyland, Nathan periodically hibernates, escaping from enemies by going underground and waiting for everyone to die – he looks and talks like a 2020s street kid, but remembers castles and men with swords.
The key misdirection is that, though people get bitten and bled, the most unusual, twisted character in the film is not the inhuman monster who looks like a helpless child but the mumsy, caring, jittery, ultimately ruthless woman who feels compelled to invest so much in her charge that all other concerns become expendable. At 72 minutes, without much in the way of showy action or effects, it is a novella rather than an epic (Charnas’ book grew from a novella ‘Unicorn Tapestry’) but all the more satisfying for that. The sort of movie that flies under the radar even of horror fans, this is a very promising first feature from Steele.