Director: Eric Ian Steele
Writer: Eric Ian Steele
Cast: Laura Montgomery Bennett, Lennon Leckey
Producers: Barry Morton, Eric Ian Steele
Music: Dean Squires, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Cinematographer: Ben Ripley
Editor: Pawel Pracz
Cert: 15 (TBC)
Running time: 72mins
What’s the story: Social worker Marjorie (Bennett) is assigned troubled teen Nathan (Leckey), who believes himself a vampire. She assumes he is traumatised, but how much of his behaviour goes beyond delusion?
What’s the verdict: George A. Romero’s Martin as directed by Alan Clarke is a good descriptor for Eric Ian Steele’s striking debut movie. An unusual take on vampire lore, Boy #5 has the confidence to play loose with the myth (sunlight is no problem here), creating its own rule book.
Debuting actor Lennon Leckey impresses as Nathan, found by the police slurping at the remains of a dog he has killed. There is something of the wounded dog to his performance, conveying the withdrawn Nathan’s fear and distrust through monotone speech and a dull sorrow behind the eyes. Then, something of the jungle cat when he turns predatory. Decked out in jogging top and bottoms, he makes for an unsettlingly unremarkable monster.
Equally strong is Laura Montgomery Bennett as sympathetic social worker Marjorie. Also debuting here, Bennett’s warm, naturalistic performance allows Boy #5 to successfully blend the mundane with the fantastic. In pain following a recent tragic event, Marjorie sees salvation in helping this fifth boy placed in her care. But, even as she begins to realise what Nathan thinks he is, events will prove more bizarre and dangerous.
Aided by cinematographer Ben Ripley (and Manchester’s architecture), Steele creates a world of nondescript offices, uninviting suburbs and foreboding city streets, into which his titular monster reluctantly enters. The director allows himself one practical FX shock (reminiscent of Cronenberg’s Rabid), but largely trades on a menacing atmosphere, and the suspicion that madness and pestilence were in evidence before Nathan’s arrival.
The messier side of the boy’s nature is conjured through a disturbing sound mix, glimpses of characters in distress, and discretely deployed gore. But, Steele knows when to lighten the mood with unexpected humour, one character musing, “I shoulda planned this better” as the bodies start to mount. Mozart is deployed on the soundtrack to rewarding effect and Wolfgang Amadeus is cheekily co-credited as one of the film’s two composers.
Vampirism becomes a metaphor for child neglect, plus sexual identification shunned by the mainstream. Whereas Romero kept us guessing whether Martin was a vampire or merely insane, Steele shifts the ambiguity onto the motivations of another character. You’re likely to be debating the final twenty minutes with friends as the credits roll.
At 72 minutes, Boy #5 does not overreach or outstay its budget. As a result, it arrives as a horror movie with both iron and spice in its blood.