HomeMoviesVenice Film Festival Review: Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person

Venice Film Festival Review: Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person

Photo Credit: Venice Film Festival

If The Vourdalak utilized childlike puppetry to supplement its darker, fable-like nature, Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person embraces its childish elements for their own wholesome sake. A youthful rom-com with buckets of blood, the film is a joy to watch—both for its unique take on vampires and for the funny, blossoming romance between the two leads, Sasha, the titular vampire (Sara Montpetit), and Paul, the also-titular consenting suicidal person (Felix-Antoine Bernard). Anyone looking for a tone akin to that of The Addams Family but with new characters, or Tim Burton at his height but from fantastic new artistic voices (Ariane Louis-Seize in her directorial debut, co-writing the script with Christine Doyon) should see this as soon as possible. 

Opening on (a younger) Sasha’s birthday, her family comes across as normal. Familiar. Her mother and father (Sophie Cadieux and Steve LaPante) love her musical ambitions, so they gift her a keyboard. She’s never touched a keyboard, but you wouldn’t know that the way she plays it. She demonstrates a savant-like gift with her present, and her parents couldn’t be more proud.  Unfortunately, this is as good as the night is going to get.

You see, as expected for a child’s birthday, Sasha’s family hires a birthday clown. As expected for a family of vampires, they make dinner out of the unsuspecting clown…but Sasha does not respond to the brutal, off-screen maiming with delight. No, she responds with fear. This little vampire is afraid of grotesque violence.  Such a concerning psychological response inspires immediate action, and the parents take their daughter to the best vampire psychologists they can find. Ultimately, her father (with begrudging acceptance from her mother) decides to let Sasha figure herself out. This is fine for a while, but years later, not much has changed. Her musical talent is resigned to performing outside a deli for change, and she’s not hunting for herself either. Frustrated by hunting for three, Sasha’s mother has had it. The now high-school aged Sasha has to hunt for herself, and so she is sent to live with her cousin Denise until she gets a grasp on the ugly business of hunting. 

During this time, Sasha gets to know Paul. He works a crappy job at a bowling alley, where he’s constantly tormented by a bully. This bully’s torments range from urging Paul to commit suicide as he stands on the roof of the bowling alley, to filling his shoes with nacho cheese. Given the circumstances, Paul is more than happy to give up his life so that Sasha can feed. Thinking she’s found a humanist justification for suicide, Sasha is initially enthusiastic, but even if she doesn’t realize it yet, killing Paul is still at odds with her moral compass. 

This inner turmoil is not immediately expressed as explicit conflict, but through the tropes of a charming teenage romcom. The build-up to the feeding, for instance, has Sasha playing music to negate the awkwardness of the situation. Despite the vampiric nature, this moment has all the human awkwardness of two teens building up to their first time. Coupled with a montage where they exact prankster vengeance on some bullies (student and teacher alike), it’s clear that her attempt to give Paul a last wish is leading to other feelings—whether they intend it or not. 

This still comes with its own issues. In fact, they’re the same issues from the beginning, and now they’re more complicated. Not only hasn’t she resolved the problem of feeding off humans, now she loves a human. However, the means for this resolution are, graciously, wholesome. Because, lest we forget, Humanist Vampire started out as a family affair, and it ends as one. For all her mother’s frustrations, her father’s rock-and-hard place confusion on how to reconcile his daughter’s empathy and her need to survive, and her cousin Denise’s smug dismissal of Sasha’s empathy, deep down, they all care about Sasha. They love her. They’re frustrated with her, and know that her feelings for Paul will only make their lives a helluva lot more difficult, and yet, they trust her. They wanted her to become her own person, and even if it wasn’t in a way they preferred, she still did that, and they have to help her get through it — just as we all have to help our family. 

This compassion, this heart, this love in the life of grim creatures like vampires, is what defines Humanist Vampire’s catharsis, its soul. As mentioned in other reviews for this festival, vampire stories embrace the dichotomy of the human with the supernatural to grimmer ends  (often using the lure of our human greed to satisfy the vampire’s bloodlust) but Humanist Vampire forgoes this. Here, the vampire is not a devil on your shoulder, but a flesh and blood being with a soul of its own. With this soul comes a capacity for positive feelings like joy, less positive but all-too-human feelings like insecurity and anger, and all the messy, redemptive capacity for love in between. 


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