Sometimes it feels like the world is out to get you. For Vincent (Karim Leklou), that turns out to be true. Drawing from various genres, Vincent Must Die surprises with its tactile but violent observation of the world. Director Stéphan Castang crafts a unique spectacle that perfectly blends action, dark comedy, and horror elements. The undeniable performance from Leklou and Castang’s directorial prowess makes this Vincent Must Die one of the festival’s best films.
One day, Vincent’s co-workers begin attacking him, seemingly blacking out as they do. Soon, strangers and even children start doing the same. Vincent leaves the city for his father’s house in the country, hoping to avoid human contact. However, Vincent is soon drawn into a relationship with a local waitress (Vimala Pons) and drawn into a conspiracy.
At times, Vincent Must Die draws on visuals and action setpieces that feel pulled from zombie history. Yet simultaneously, it’s impossible to ignore similarities and anxieties felt during Covid. Castang’s feature pushes his lead character into isolation, and he fears everyone around him. Even when he finds momentary respite with his father and Margaux (Pons), it must be away from the world. With an undercurrent of conspiracy thriller in the film, Vincent Must Die can keep a foot in high-concept genre storytelling and meaningful criticism of the world today.
Leklou’s performance brings all the weariness and stress of Vincent’s situation onto the screen. We know he’s being attacked, yet his paranoia becomes untenable. Leklou adds a level of shyness to the paranoia that makes Vincent empathetic. He wants to hold up the world around him and embrace people into his life, but the danger always returns. It’s a powerful performance that keeps the audience locked into the absurdity.
Castang wisely layers in the discussion about emerging epidemics and unprompted violence. He creates several setpieces that instantly emerge as iconic moments. As Vincent Must Die takes on the style of Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers in its final act, Castang ramps up the tension. The action setpiece grows, showcasing plenty of upsetting violence that sticks with the audience. It ultimately culminates in a marvelous moment that delivers on the characters we’ve grown to love and the rules established throughout.
Even with the fun and excellent genre setpieces, Castang’s film never takes his eye off the more ambitious storytelling moments. It helps Vincent Must Die deliver on its promise and its unique blend of genre filmmaking. The two performances at its heart stay with you after the credits have rolled, and the audience will wrestle with its meaning for years. Vincent Must Die is an incredible achievement, even if it remains a somewhat uncategorical film.