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  • Writer's pictureS.J.

'Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person' Review: Undeadpan Vampiric Hijinks | TIFF 2023

Sara Montpetit checking out and touching her new fangs.

Let the bitey one in, you now have new vampires to be obsessed with. Director and co-writer Ariane Louis-Seize announces herself to the world with her debut feature Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person (Vampire humaniste cherche suicidaire consentant in French), a bloody horror comedy that surely will win all the awards for the year's best title. Being 68 but giving 18, Sasha (Sara Montpetit) is a piano playing vampire who's reluctant to kill—something which is obviously a problem for her survival—since she sees it as an immoral thing to do. After her parents decline to provide any more blood for her and send her away to live with a family friend, she ends up meeting Paul (Félix-Antoine Bénard), a teenager who's having suicidal tendencies, possibly offering a solution to Sasha's moral quandary.

Louis-Seize seems to have no trouble finding the critical vein with her film as it's evident from the very first few scenes that it's all working towards something. She and co-writer Christine Doyon have created interesting characters in the very familiar world of vampires, Sasha and everyone else immediately having a distinct voice and purpose when it comes to inhabiting it. You can draw parallels between Sasha and Paul's journeys and the feeling of detachment from your family, peers or people in general, whether it's because of moral, behavioural or political differences or because of one's questioning of their own identity.

Assured direction of the piece is a big reason why the film succeeds tonally, mainly since it recognises that there's no death without life that features all kinds of colours and shades. ''Humanist Vampire'' combines dark comedy with supernatural horror aesthetics and classic coming-of-age drama tropes quite efficiently, giving especially Montpetit a lot of individual moments to shine as the actor delivers great comedic timing with deadpan (or undeadpan?) sensibility and balances that with a real sense of melancholy and angst.

That confidence with tonal shifts, solid performers and coherent filmmaking style—established by DoP Shawn Pavlin's moody, gothic lighting and felicitous hair and makeup work—is why Humanist Vampire gets the rare honour of actually being too short and slim for what it wants to be. When your world is this cohesive, it's disappointing that the awkward scene structure in the beginning doesn't really bring Sasha and Paul's paths together as well as it should, so their growing connection feels a bit rushed, though it is rather enjoyable when it finally clicks. Sure, it's odd to say that there's not enough of something great in your film but that also signals a bright future for these filmmakers. Before that future exists, however, I reckon that this movie will easily avoid death when it reaches audiences.

Smileys: Tone, directing, characterisation, Sara Montpetit

Frowneys: Some issues with structure

Liking this movie is such fang behaviour.


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