Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person: A Movie and a Vampire That Don’t Suck

Movies Reviews Ariane Louis-Seize
Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person: A Movie and a Vampire That Don’t Suck

On the page and on screens, vampires come in a range of makes and models: Sexy, hideous, humanoid, monstrous, cunning, coarse, kindly, cruel. But the massive popularity of franchises like Twilight suggests that some audiences harbor an inferiority complex over their frailty compared to the indomitable power of the average vamp. They’re faster than us. They’re smarter than us. They’re stronger than us, more worldly than us. They have perfect hair, forever.

Quebec’s Ariane Louis-Seize has a radical counterpoint to this formulation of the vampire archetype, and pretty much all the other variants taking up real estate in horror at this moment: What if vampires were just like us? Her feature debut, Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person, is not only packing one of 2024’s standout titles; it’s the most original vampire film of the 2020s so far.

Sasha (Sara Montpetit) is in her teens, meaning she’s really 68. (Here, vampires aren’t eternally youthful; they age, but slowly, so three centuries for them looks like seven decades for us.) An only child to her father Aurélien (Steve Laplante) and mother Georgette (Sophie Cadieux), Sasha struggles with vampires’ core survival mechanism: Hunting. She can’t bring herself to kill. She takes her blood from hospital bags instead, until Aurélien and Georgette show her tough love. They take away the bags and have her move in with her cousin, Denise (Noémie O’Farrell), who lack’s Sasha’s compunctions about puncturing throats for supper. 

That’s the “humanist vampire” portion of the title. The “suicidal person” is gawky Paul (Félix-Antoine Bénard), an actual teen, whose zest for life appears to extend only to his perspective on death: It’s better to die for a good cause then to bear the isolation he feels being alive. The kid was born with the umbilical cord around his neck. Any surprise he’s comfy with dying, or with Sasha, whose true nature he catches on their meet-cute? (She stalks and tries to eat him before balking and hoofing it.) 

Louis-Seize’s film is in conversation with offbeat vampire films from the last decade, notably Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive and Ana Lily Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, whose protagonist provides Sasha’s style template: Black-garbed from head to toe, the chador swapped with an overcoat. But Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person isn’t bloated with lazy referentialism. Louise-Seize speaks more from the contemporary culture of Montreal-based filmmakers outputting human dramas underpinned by low-key surrealism and bone-dry humor, like Stéphane Lafleur, who serves as her editor here. Laplante, too, is part of this club, having appeared in Lafleur’s last film, Viking, and the films of fellow Montreal director Monia Chokri. Whatever relationship Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person shares with other vampire movies, it’s chiefly the product of Louise-Seize’s environment rather than her taste in horror.

The film does reflect certain vampire archetypes. Denise, for instance, fits a traditional bloodsucker bill: Merciless and cool, sultry in the pursuit of her prey. She gives not a single shit about Sasha’s dilemma. She cares about staying alive. Louis-Seize establishes unwavering empathy for her vampires from the first scene, where the entire family feasts on a hapless clown on Sasha’s sixth birthday; her compassion extends even to Denise, Sasha’s antagonist by default, despite her sadistic feeding habits. (Her home is an abattoir full of chains and gore-splattered hooks.) Less grace is shown to human antagonists, like Henry (Arnaud Vachon), Paul’s primary tormentor at school. Bénard issues judgment through Paul’s anxious rancor: Life is hard enough. Making life miserable for others to get your jollies is vile. 

Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person contrasts Sasha’s ethical conflict against Paul’s unorthodox life-death philosophy; if the only way she can live is by slaughtering innocent people, then the fact of her existence poses a threat to others. It’s rare for vampire films to consider the cost of living from this angle; TV shows like What We Do in the Shadows and movies like The Lost Boys approach this idea mostly in brief without fully embracing it. What’s special about Humanist is how Louis-Seize maintains an easygoing atmosphere despite the heavy material, and despite the determined stillness of Shawn Pavlin’s photography. Broadly, the film is static. The most movement Louis-Seize creates is in Lafleur’s deft editing, full of snappy cuts that spare the need for an excessive running time. 

In contrast with its title, the film’s narrative is breathtaking in its economy, a quality facilitated by construction as well as the cast’s performances. Montpetit and Bénard fill the routine silences between Sasha and Paul with unspoken communication: Kinship, longing, love, at first platonic and then romantic, curiosity. They carry out dialogues with each other without saying a word, which suits Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person’s gothic-quirk tone nicely, blending sweetness and silliness with an appreciation for macabre images. 

At the same time, Louis-Seize gives Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person freedom to have fun. Sasha takes Paul on a prank spree halfway through that reads as something out of a straight-ahead high school comedy; not long after, Paul bites Henry on the hand at a party in a fit of rage, a reaction to one humiliation too many heaped on him by his bully. It’s one of the film’s most unsettling scenes, earned through the intersection of alienation with existential violence. What’s the point of living if it means either hurting others or suffering with crushing loneliness? It’s a simple question bearing rich fruit: A kinship between mortals and the ageless that’s uncommon in the genre.

Director: Ariane Louis-Seize
Writers: Ariane Louis-Seize, Christine Doyon
Starring: Sara Montpetit, Félix-Antoine Bénard, Noémie O’Farrell, Arnaud Vachon, Steve Laplante, Sophie Cadieux, Madeleine Péloquin, Marie Brassard, Gabriel-Antoine Roy
Release Date: June 21, 2024

Bostonian culture journalist Andy Crump covers the movies, beer, music, and being a dad for way too many outlets, perhaps even yours. He has contributed to Paste since 2013. You can follow him on Twitter and find his collected work at his personal blog. He’s composed of roughly 65% craft beer.

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