The habits of vampires, strangely, makes me think about my own life. I am a meat eater, but if you asked me to kill the animals myself, I’d probably turn vegetarian overnight. It’s much harder when you’re a vampire. Not only do you need to drink blood, otherwise you die, but it has to be human blood, and you’re expected to do it yourself. I’d visit the Vatican the next day.
In an early scene that sets the tone for the rest of the film to come, the Quebecois Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person (Ariane Louis-Seize, 2023) opens with the very young Sasha at her birthday party. The parents order a clown. Sasha likes the clown. But the film quickly plays with most children’s natural fear of clowns by having the entire family eat the clown in front of her, causing her to suffer from PTSD. They visit a vampire doctor. He shows her footage of people dying. The bad news: the compassionate part of her brain is activated, as opposed to the hungry part.
Fast-forward to her so-called teenage years (she’s actually 68, she just ages slowly), and Sasha (Sara Montpetit) — looking like a cross between Wednesday Addams and the star of A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Ana Lily Amirpour, 2014), her jet-black hair melting into her even blacker clothes — is disappointing her parents even further. While she lives off blood stacked in the fridge, she has yet to make her first kill, terrified of ending another person’s life.
If only there was an ethical alternative…
As the title suggests —the type that shows more imagination than the entirety of some films released this year — the solution arises in the form of Paul (Félix-Antoine Bénard); a young, shy, depressed young man, who wants to end his life as quickly as possible. She spots him on the roof of a bowling alley, considering the jump, before his colleague bullies him into serving some more customers. She follows him, intrigued, wondering if he will agree to her “ethical” arrangement.
What follows is a pretty goofy, mostly satisfying romp through the woes of being a vampire, tacking it onto a teenage romance narrative filled with pitch-black comic wit. First-time director Louis-Seize has more on her mind than mere vampire jokes, however, using the premise as a means for these characters to get to really know each other.
Sasha is attracted to Paul’s self-pitying soul while he’s interested in her ability to transcend the usual pitfalls of teenage life — going to school, getting into trouble (including a stand-out comic sequence involving a dead animal), and being picked on by bigger boys. Together they form a sweet, if sickly, bond, their one-crazy-night-across-town story shot through with genuine warmth and intermittent hilarity.
Giving the story extra depth is Shawn Pavlin’s excellent widescreen photography, often framing characters artificially side-by-side while imbuing the frame with deep colours and the occasional lens flare or foggy backdrop. This gives the film an off-kilter yet choreographed feel, perfect for an askew, metaphorical look at human nature.
Like most vampire movies, it’s a distorted reflection back on who we are, and what we are willing to sacrifice in order to please those around us and to be happy in our own lives. While hardly reaching the levels of vampire classics — it barely scratches the surface of this year’s superior French-language Bitten (Romain de Saint-Blanquat, 2023) — I had an enjoyable time considering the practicalities — and drawbacks — of everyday vampiric life. Maybe immortality has nothing on a good old plate of poutine.