Ariane Louis-Seize’s Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person: Reluctant Bloodsucker
Review by Maurie Alioff
(September 22, 2023 – Montréal, Québec) Québec, which is continuing to carry more than its weight in the Canadian film industry, scored at the Toronto International Film Festival’s 2023 edition. Sophie Dupuis’s Solo was named Best Canadian Feature, and Henri Pardo’s Kanaval took a Canada Goose Amplify Voices award, specifically BIPOC and Canadian Best Feature in that designation.
My big disappointment in the aftermath of the festival is that Ariane Louis-Seize’s Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person (Vampire humaniste cherche suicidaire consentant), did not get the official honour it richly deserves. A TIFF regular, Louis-Seize’s short Little Waves (Les petits vagues) was on TIFF’s Top Ten Canadian films list in 2018.
Humanist Vampire did take the best director prize in the Giornate degli Autori (GdA)section of Venice 2023. And I have little doubt distributor H264, which is handling world sales, will find US buyers. In fact, I think a re-make in English is likely, even though it couldn’t capture the specifically Québécois humour, irony, and sense of absurdity that blesses the movie.
In the picture, vampire Sasha, (who looks 17, but is actually 68 once the film gets rolling) wants nothing to do with biting humans and sucking out their blood. As a child she refuses to feast off an incredibly annoying clown her parents offer her as a birthday present.
Death triggers compassion in Sasha (Sara Montpetit) not blood lust. Early on, we discover that her fangs haven’t popped out, which in a film loaded with references to teenage life, suggests delayed puberty. When her fangs finally do appear, it’s like a first period.
In an early scene, Sasha’s typically middle-class, suburban family is deeply concerned, as if they had an impaired child. They take her to various apparently vampire specialists who study her condition. Sasha’s father (Steve Laplante) shows understanding, but her mother (Sophie Cadieux) bitches she refuses to do all the hunting for the next twenty years.
Like a teenage girl who refuses to start taking care of herself, Sasha pulls plasma bags out of the fridge and sips blood out of a straw as if she’s enjoying a smoothie. The unavoidable fact is that her life depends on drinking blood. With her jet-black bangs, finely pretty face, and slim body, Montpetit recalls Krysten Ritter, who played Jesse Pinkman’s smart punk girlfriend Jane in Breaking Bad and the hip, sardonic Jessica Jones in the eponymous Marvel series.
Throughout the picture, Louis-Seize and her co-writer Christine Doyon come up with swift and smoothly engineered plot twists. One perilous and/or absurd situation dovetails into the next without fuss or muss. The big turn happens when Sasha meets teenage Paul (Félix-Antoine Bénard)at a group meeting for depressed and suicidal people. The sequence is a letter perfect parody of smug, rosy-eyed therapy sessions. Sasha confesses that if she doesn’t perform a certain bad act, she will die. The group leader ignores the implications.
Meanwhile, Paul, rather than attaining “positivity” about coping with a miserable, bullied outsider life, says “Death can be an interesting solution.” Sasha and Paul gaze at each, smitten. She needs to kill; he wants to die. The movie mockingly depicts a teen world that is relentlessly and stupidly cruel. All the boys are idiotic wannabe party animals. Sasha and Paul, as their relationship blossoms, become the ultimate misfits endangered by the goons.
Naturally, Sasha has a huge collection of vinyl. In a key scene, she lip-synchs to a 50s-style love song, and then in one shot, they’re ready for consummation. He tilts his head back ready for her bite. The scene is a witty take-off of first teenage sex, complete with hesitation.
Of course, Sasha and Paul can’t do without one another, and the story heads toward an ironic, touching, and entirely logical resolution.
Humanist Vampire is scheduled for release October 13, 2023.
Maurie Alioff is a film journalist, critic, screenwriter and media columnist. He has written for radio and television and taught screenwriting at Montreal’s Vanier College. A former editor for Cinema Canada and Take One, as well as other magazines, he is affiliated with the Quebec media industry publication, CTVM.Info. His articles have appeared in various publications, including Canadian Cinematographer, POV Magazine, and The New York Times. He is the Québec Correspondent for northernstars.ca.