It must be hard to be an ethical vampire. Driven by an insatiable need for blood, you have to find an acceptable source, all the while avoiding the wary eye of judgemental neighbours. It’s probably easier to be a psychopath instead; ravishing, killing and feasting at will. As long as you know where to hide the bodies.
But look, the aptly-named Feral family — recently relocated to a sleepy town in rural France — are trying. The matriarch, Laurence (Élodie Bouchez), is smart: she has a job as a nurse at a blood donation bank. In an early, exciting scene, reminiscent of a heist movie, she outlines her complex plan to declare certain donations invalid, before secretly hiding the blood pouches in her purse. Caught with elegant, flowing camera moves, it establishes For Night Will Come (Céline Rouzet, 2023) as a thinking man’s vampire film.
At least for the first two-thirds. Just as the son Philémon’s (Mathias Legoût Hammond) insatiable desire for blood becomes more and more pronounced, the film itself succumbs to Twilight-level vampire clichés. Lacking the delicacy and ambiguity of this year’s superior French vampire movie Bitten (Romain de Saint-Blanquat, 2023) or the black comic wit of Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person (Ariane Louis-Seize, 2023), For Night Will Come pretzels the perils of vampirism into a torturous coming-of-age metaphor.
Legoût Hammond makes a decent acting debut, looking particularly pasty as he times himself in the sun and uncomfortably stares at girls. Seventeen years old, he must balance his sexual awakening with a dangerous bloodlust — put to the test when the pretty Camila (Céleste Brunnquell) shows evident interest in him.
Undistracted by smartphones and the internet thanks to the late 90s setting, their scenes, mostly set by a tranquil pond, are shot through with tenderness and care, representing the only true stakes throughout this mostly low-key film. Naturally, the other boys find him a bit weird, further solidifying Philémon’s outsider status and pushing him into darker places.
Crushing on girls and being bullied is tough; it can even turn you into a monster. But I found going down this route a shame when most of For Night Will Come’s strength lay in its odd, comic beats, such as a convivial barbecue where every family member repeats the same lines about moving for the community atmosphere, mountain views and close-by shops. They’re not used to being normal, and it shows.
Perhaps a little sitcom-esque — yet its sheen of euro-realism posited it a subtler exploration of mythical beasts living among us, and the practical problems of dealing with their inherent nature. How do they deal with the local Church? How do they pretend to eat French food — especially given the Gallic predisposition for garlic? What happens when they’re trying on new clothes and the mirror isn’t working? Instead, we end on deep, meaningful, teenage emotions — culminating in a cheesy montage straight out of a 90s dance video, all overlays lazily rehashing earlier scenes as our hero stares mournfully at the sky. Not a massive missed opportunity, perhaps, but a missed one nonetheless. I’d recommend Humanist Vampire as a superior treatment of similar material.