Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person

Whimsical, tender, deadpan and enchanting, this French-language Canadian coming-of-age dramedy is about a bloodsucker who doesn't want to kill people.
Sarah Ward
Published on February 15, 2024
Updated on February 25, 2024

Overview

What if a vampire didn't want to feed on humans? When it happens in Interview with the Vampire, rats are the solution. In Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person, Sasha (Sara Montpetit, White Dog) gets her sustenance from pouches of blood instead, but her family — father (Steve Laplante, The Nature of Love), mother (Sophie Cadieux, Chouchou), aunt (Marie Brassard, Viking) and cousin Denise (Noémie O'Farrell, District 31') — are increasingly concerned once more than half a century passes and she keeps avoiding biting necks. Sasha still looks like a goth teenager, yet she's 68, so her relatives believe that it's well past time for her to embrace an inescapable aspect of being a bloodsucker. What if she didn't have to, though? The potential solution in the delightful first feature by director Ariane Louis-Seize, who co-writes with Christine Doyon (Germain s'éteint), is right there in this 2023 Venice International Film Festival award-winner's title.

With What We Do in the Shadows, both on the big and small screens, the idea that vamps are just like the living when it comes to sharing houses has gushed with laughs. Swap out flatmates for adolescence — including pesky parents trying to cramp a teen's style — and that's Louis-Seize's approach in this French-language Canadian effort. As much as Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person brings fellow undead fare to mind, however, and more beyond, the Québécois picture is an entrancing slurp of vampire and other genres on its own merits. There's an Only Lovers Left Alive-style yearning and A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night-esque elegance to the film. Beetlejuice and The Hunger bubble up, too, as do Under the Skin, Ginger Snaps and The Craft as well. But comparable to how drinking from someone doesn't transform you into them — at least according to a century-plus of bloodsucking tales on the page, in cinemas and on TV — nodding at influences doesn't turn this coming-of-age horror-comedy into its predecessors.

Why does a vampire shy away from their basic method of feeding? Compassion and empathy, as a vamp doctor diagnoses. At a childhood birthday party in the 80s, Sasha (played by Avant le crash's Lilas-Rose Cantin in her younger guise) is gifted what her family thinks will be the ultimate present, to help her fangs come in: the clown hired as the shindig's entertainment isn't just there for a merry time, but as the cake. She won't kill him. She won't murder anyone afterwards. As she ages, it isn't just appeasing her parents that's putting pressure on Sasha to indulge her ingrained urges; when she sees blood, her desire kicks in. That Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person falls into the nest of flicks that understand how harrowing becoming a woman can be is as apparent as a puncture wound around the jugular; again, it still finds its own way to muse on a well-contemplated topic, even while broadly sticking with the familiar "being a teen girl is a horror movie" concept.

As a last resort, Sasha is sent to stay with Denise, who nab her meals simply by picking up men and taking them home (her industrial-chic abode has meathooks to assist). But forcing anyone to follow in an authority figure's footsteps never turns out well whether they're breathing or undead, which is another of Louis-Seize's universal notions. A search for identity sits at the unstaked heart of Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person, as Sasha endeavours to grow up and be a creature of the night on her own terms, and without losing who she knows she is. Enter suicide support groups, which depressed and bullied high-schooler Paul (Félix-Antoine Bénard, The Wall) attends to grapple with his own feelings about mortality — an opinion that's far less concerned with retaining his own life than Sasha is about letting humans keep existing.

Warm Bodies, Let the Right One In, a human-vamp reversal of Buffy the Vampire Slayer's main romances: that's all dripped into Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person's blood bag as well. With her raven locks and dark-clad outfits, plus the movie's deadpan comedy, there's a touch of Wednesday Addams-but-a-bloodsucker, too. That said, tenderness rather than sarcasm is Sasha's vibe — and finding the balance between bleak and sweet is the feature's. Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person is a film about not just forging your own sense of self, and staying true to it, but discovering someone to connect with who accepts you for who you are, takes the good with the bad, and makes life (or the afterlife) worth living. It might be red with blood, then black with melancholy and angst, thematically, but it's also pink inside.

Aesthetically, the Montreal-based Louis-Seize, cinematographer Shawn Pavlin (who also shot her shorts) and editor Stéphane Lafleur (Goddess of the Fireflies) adore contrasts — and letting the feature's visuals say as much as dialogue, especially about Sasha's inner state. Atmospheric yet also neon-lit, taking cues for lighting choices from German expressionist cinema but imparting the flick with a 90s teen-movie sheen: just as it balances humour with bittersweetness, Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person juggles all of the above. Texture and richness pulsate emotionally and stylistically, and also in the soundtrack's bounces from jazz to pop. Indeed, one of the reasons that viewers being able to glean Louis-Seize's sources of inspiration doesn't overwhelm her picture is because it so deeply feels like you could step right into the film.

Montpetit and Bénard turn in performances to match, portrayals where angst and longing pump in the same veins at the same time, and where frolicking through the night — sunlight still isn't a vampire's friend here — has the liminal taste of being caught between juvenile fun and adult reality. Alongside possessing great chemistry, Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person's central pair know how to convey the movie's whimsy, darkness and romance while never succumbing fully to any over the other. They play a twist on Romeo and Juliet as well in the process, in a way, as two beings from opposite worlds drawn together. One would prefer to die than hurt someone who doesn't want it. The other would donate his life willingly because it'd give him purpose. As with the rest of her nudges, Louis-Seize doesn't feast on Shakespeare's most-famous tragedy, either; her take has its own charms and flavour.

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