In 2022, Bones and All sought to reshape the teenage cannibal film. Luca Guadagnino’s triumph did not work on some, but it also pushed for a reimagining of traditional horror tropes. The power of the monster has rarely been in its scares but instead in its commentary. This allows Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person to redefine how sexuality and the vampire film can interact. With brilliant cinematography and impeccable performances at its center, it’s one of the low-key triumphs of Venice.
A young girl named Sasha (Sara Montpetit) celebrates her birthday with her family. However, when it comes time to water dinner – a clown – she cannot bring herself to do it. The family becomes confused by her unwillingness to kill. When Sasha approaches her 68th birthday, she meets a loner named Paul (Félix-Antoine Bénard) who actively wants to die. However, as Sasha struggles with killing Paul, the two embark on a late-night odyssey to help him achieve everything he wants.
The charm of Humanist Vampire comes shining through as its protagonists blast a record of “Emotion” by Brenda Lee. While the two prep for Paul’s impending death, Sasha’s mind races. It’s at once a stunning, charming sequence with obvious nods to the process of losing one’s virginity. Director Ariane Louis-Seize hones in on these tropes while redefining them within the context of violence. By juxtaposing a vampire getting ready to feed with sex, an unmistakable nod to the violence of a woman losing their virginity becomes clear. Louis-Seize never lays it on too thick, and with screenwriter Christine Doyon, they are able to frame these scenes with compassion and humanity.
At the same time, it showcases Louis-Seize as a storyteller. She captures the subtle and withdrawn thoughts that push our characters. Like Amanpour’s Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, Louis-Seize provides incredible insight into the mental state of her vampiric lead. At the same time, Louise-Seize continues to showcase her talent as a visual storyteller.
Beyond that, Louis-Seize adeptly handles the comedy. It’s more grounded than the silliness of What We Do in the Shadows. Pulling from traditional teen comedy tropes and fun hijinks, Humanist Vampire perfectly threads the genre needle. Louise-Seize allows Montpetit to become a perfect throwback avatar for Lydia Deetz while making Bénard the dopey but charming companion. The two actors have incredible chemistry and help Humanist Vampire land its non-verbals. The deadpan delivery from Noémie O’Farrell becomes one of the movie’s secret weapons.
However, Louise-Seize keys into a place between nihilism and horror. There are stakes, not only for the high school-aged kids but for the family. There’s a darkness about a meaningless, seemingly infinite existence. Yet that existence could be even more troubling if one feels true guilt over every action they take. While Humanist Vampire tries to sell the stakes on this aspect, it does not always connect. Louis-Seize nearly gives the ideas the weight they deserve but ultimately pulls back from forcing our protagonists to deal with the fallout of the consequences of their actions. This provides the movie with a heartwarming ending but does not deliver the emotional potential.
While the ideas may not be new in the genre, its packaging is certainly different than other interpretations. Some moments needed slightly more development, and unfortunately, the ending is a little predictable. Still, Humanist Vampire lands some incredible moments and charms from start to finish.