The Movie Waffler The Overlook Film Festival 2024 Review - HUMANIST VAMPIRE SEEKING CONSENTING SUICIDAL PERSON | The Movie Waffler


Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person review
A reluctant vampire stumbles upon a potentially ethical way to feed her habit.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Ariane Louis-Seize

Starring: Sara Montpetit, Félix-Antoine Bénard, Steve Laplante, Sophie Cadieux, Noémie O'Farrell

Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person poster

Given its title, you'd be forgiven for thinking Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person is based on the story of Armin Meiwes, the German man who infamously murdered and ate another man, Bernd Jurgen-Brandes, after the latter answered a classified ad in which Meiwes requested a consenting victim. But no, it's a horror-comedy that plays on a similar idea but in a generally light-hearted fashion.

Like so many movies before it, Ariane Louis-Seize's feature debut supposes vampires living in the shadows of our world, doing what they can to survive. The prologue introduces us to a fanged family living in Montreal. Little Sasha's parents are worried that she hasn't sprouted her fangs yet. After visiting a vampire dentist they're alarmed to hear that human suffering invokes compassion, rather than bloodlust, in Sasha.

Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person review

Cut to the present day and Sasha (Sara Montpetit) is now a 68-year-old with the appearance of a human teenager. Having spent the past few decades supplying her with blood, her parents decide it's time to stop molly-coddling their daughter and force her to find her own victims. She's sent to live with her older cousin Denise (Noémie O'Farrell), who likes to lure unsuspecting men back to her place before chomping on their throats. Sasha just can't bring herself to partake, but the longer she goes without blood the more her tummy rumbles with hunger. Unable to eat human food, which is fatally poisonous to vampires in this lore, Sasha is left to gaze longingly through the windows of late night fast food joints as regular Canadians stuff their faces with poutine.

Sasha stumbles across a potentially ethical solution when she sees a teenage boy, Paul (Félix-Antoine Bénard), contemplating jumping off a roof. Bullied at school and at the bowling alley where he works, Paul has decided his pain is too much to bear. When Sasha tracks him down at a group meeting for the depressed and suicidal, he agrees to willingly become her first kill.

Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person review

There are some considerably heavy themes at play in Louis-Seize's film, primarily that of the thorny subject of assisted suicide, but it never allows itself to get too dark. As such it's a film that finds itself trapped in a limbo somewhere between the family friendly fantasia of Tim Burton and the grittiness of films like Abel Ferrara's The Addiction and Ana Lily Amirpour's A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. It feels more at ease when it leans toward the former, and Louis-Seize manages to mine some witty ideas from the over-played concept of vampirism. There's a devilishly clever bit involving a biting gone wrong on Denise's part that results in a very annoying frat boy being accidentally given immortality and ending up living on Denise and Sasha's couch like an unwanted guest. When Sasha mouths along to a vinyl copy of Brenda Lee's 'Emotions', it initially seems like she's a young hipster teen until we remember she's actually 68 and this is the music of her generation. This detail gives the budding romance between Sasha and Paul a touch of the Harold and Maudes, but this age gap is something the film never addresses.

Sasha's initial attempt to claim Paul as her first victim is cleverly played as though it's a pair of teen lovers' awkward first sexual encounter, with the nervous Paul gallantly suggesting ways he might make the process less painful. Unable to go through with it, Sasha makes up a fake bit of lore concerning a vampire's need to grant their victim a dying wish before they suck their blood, which leads to a montage of Paul confronting his various tormentors. The idea of a vampire and her potential victim bonding romantically over the course of a night before the sun comes up and she's forced to choose between food and death could fuel an entire film on its own (it's a shame the title Before Sunrise is already taken), but it arrives too late in the narrative here for the film to exploit its potential.

Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person review

Montpetit, who recently caught our attention with her turn in Charlotte LeBon's coming of age drama Falcon Lake, is excellent once again here, nailing the anxiety of a vegan vampire. She comes across as a proper teenage weirdo rather than a pampered young actress playing goth dress-up. Standing rigid like a sleeping bat or collapsing from exhaustion, her portrayal of a bloodsucker who finds life draining has clearly had some thought put into it. While she doesn't make being a vampire look like much fun, I imagine a lot of teenage girls who watch Humanist Vampire will find Montpetit's angsty vamp both beguiling and inspirational.

Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person plays at The Overlook Film Festival from April 5th.

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