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Thursday, May 23, 2024
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‘Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person’ is what it says on the tin

The film brings dry, blood-soaked comedy to the Wisconsin Film Festival.

With a title like “Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person,” you pretty much know what you’re getting into.

Director Ariane Louis-Seize is well aware of this, and the beginning of the film is refreshing in how it gets right to the point. There are no long, inconsequential scenes showing us how vampires work or hammering home the fact that they need blood to survive. Everything we need to know comes in the first couple of minutes. 

Sasha (Sara Montpetit) is a young vampire who drinks blood from hospital bags because she can’t bring herself to kill anyone, but her disappointed parents are cutting off her supply. Paul (Félix-Antoine Bénard) is a depressed, ostracized high schooler who goes to a suicide support group. Soon, they meet.

“Humanist Vampire” is an existential story that raises questions about what life really means. To what extent can we forge our own path rather than fulfilling the role that society expects of us? How can we find what we want to do with our lives? What makes a life worth living, and could it be justified to throw it away? 

These ideas underlie the lead duo’s deadpan, charmingly awkward conversations as they roam the night together, with Sasha forcing Paul to stand up to his bullies before she drinks his blood.

The real creativity lies in making this film a coming-of-age story. Both characters are teenagers — ignoring that Sasha is technically 68 because vampires age more slowly — lending a sense of charm and realism to the film. The film’s themes don’t really tread any new ground, but they ring true for young outsiders working to find their place in the world.

This charm is supported by a set of strong performances, particularly by Montpetit, whose flair for small variations in expression and inflection elevates her character and establishes her as someone to watch in the future. 

The acting strength is most apparent in the film’s best scene, which occurs after Sasha invites Paul to her bedroom for their arrangement. What follows is the pair silently listening to Brenda Lee’s “Emotions” on vinyl in a single shot that rivals its counterpart in “Before Sunrise.” Their facial expressions and alternating attempts to dance convey more thoughts on life and death than any of their subsequent conversations.

Unfortunately, “Humanist Vampire” doesn’t follow through on its full promise. It wraps up too cleanly and neatly, with a few too many plot contrivances and character inconsistencies for comfort. It doesn’t really answer any of the questions it raises, which admittedly would be quite difficult but is disappointing nonetheless. The film fails to justify its timetable as the resolution to the conflict feels as if it could just as easily have happened several years prior or later.

The film is entertaining regardless, with some genuine heart under its sharp wit and a surprising number of laugh-out-loud moments. “Humanist Vampire” is a nice crowd-pleaser for fans of dry, somewhat-edgy comedy but falls short of the fantastic film it could have been.

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