I recently had the opportunity to attend a private screening of Michael O'Shea's debut film and Cannes selection The Transfiguration and to be honest, I was a bit little nervous as horror is not a genre I tend to enjoy. As I sat in my chair, mentally preparing for the depravity I was about to endure, my apprehension turned into intrigue. The Transfiguration proved to be an extremely unique and thought-provoking film.

The movie follows Milo - a deeply disturbed boy who is obsessed with vampires and gory, carnivorous activity. He allows his idée fixe with bloodshed to overcome him, resulting in violent behaviour and murder. He meets Sophie, another troubled youth, and begins to questions his motives in life. The composition of the film is perplexing and anxiety-inducing as the story unravels and creates an interest for viewers that is almost as insatiable as the protagonist's appetite.

O'Shea did a tremendous job of paralleling classic horror tropes with the atrocities of living in an urban community. The horror genre is often never seen through a black scope, and in those films, the main characters are very rarely awkward, dysfunctional, and most importantly a person of colour. Milo is the terror and the movie explores his walk through life as a vulnerable and misguided sociopath. This is important because the film industry, as well as society, often doesn't allow for young black boys to be wide-eyed and mentally disturbed in such a manner as seen in O'shea's film.

However, in many ways Milo plays into the stereotypes projected onto black males. He is the lurker hiding behind the bushes; the hunter waiting to prey on the unassuming victim. He is a thief, all of his victims are white, and he lacks empathy as well as a moral compass. Some could say he falls into the played-out assumption of "being a product of his environment", growing up in the projects surrounded by degenerate youth and getting no structure or healthy attention and engagement. His prowess resembles the ideology of survival of the fittest - another biological concept applied to the social structures of people of colour.

The most poignant part of my experience with this film was the way social issues were perfectly intertwined. A huge theme was acknowledging mental health issues in the black community which we saw with the constant talk of suicide, mentions of PTSD, and Milo's lack of empathy in many cases with Sophie.

A lot of Milo and Sophie's behaviour stems from the recurring and emphasised subject of broken homes and abuse that leads to problematic behaviour such as violence for Milo and self-harm for Sophie. A minor theme is also the distrust with the police due to corruption. Milo's interaction with the police sets him up to be targeted in his neighbourhood and his conformity to corruption helps him to find a way out.

One looming topic that I was fixated on was that of gentrification and race relations. The movie is set in New York City - a location that is currently undergoing a lot of issues with the ownership of spaces by various groups of people. We are introduced to this first with Sophie - a young, poor white girl living in the projects with her alcoholic and abusive Grandfather. She gravitates to Milo because he has no interest in questioning her reason for living in an urban setting despite the fact that it proves to be problematic for other members of the community. The next and most clearly charged example is that of the young white couple cruising the project complex for drugs and appropriating black culture all while straddling the line of white privilege.

Those two examples are the strongest strides the film takes towards examining race relations. Clearly Milo has some issues with white people, however, his relationship with Sophie opens up his emotions and allows him to come to terms with his transgressions.

The Transfiguration is a part of a new school of intelligent horror films that combine classic horror elements with the woes faced by some of the most oppressed and disregarded people in our society. It will make you reevaluate everything you have been conditioned to think about scary movies.