Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person was a major draw at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), and it's gone on to win the Windsor International Film Festival (WIFF) prize for a Canadian film. Ariane Louis-Seize's movie blends horror and comedy with the absurd for an innovative coming-of-age story.
The Quebec filmmaker introduces us to Sasha (Sara Montpetit). Unlike the rest of her clan, killing doesn't come easily to the young vampire. She is apparently "too sensitive." Having survived off bags of blood, she has to now fend for herself after her parents cut off her supply,
That's when she meets a lonely teenage boy Paul (Félix-Antoine Bénard) with suicidal tendencies, who agrees to give up his life, which will save Sasha.
If that sounds particularly morbid, it certainly is, but as Sasha tries to make it her mission to let Paul experience his final wishes before he dies, Louis-Seize and co-writer Christine Doyon are able to make this an incredibly charming story.
"I always liked supernatural movies and coming-of-age as well, and at some point I had an idea for a short film ... about a vampire who put [out a] Craigslist ads looking for a suicidal person," Louis-Seize told Yahoo Canada. "I pitched it to my co-screenwriter and she came up with the idea of the title."
As Louis-Seize explained, the idea was to do a "dark comedy about death," but she also wanted to talk about life and our human need to feel like we belong.
"I think me and Christine, ... we were really instinctive in our way to write the film, and we put so much effort in the dialogue," she said. "We were playing all the characters and at the end of the writing process, I knew so much about each and every one of my characters that I knew how to direct, like in the small details, all the scenes."
"It's my first comedy, but I like comedy and I think I have a good sense of humour, so I really want to do that."
For Félix-Antoine Bénard, the young actor impressively is able to take on a character that is going through very serious mental health challenges, while also effectively utilizing dialogue that does have some fun and playfulness. As Louis-Seize described the character of Paul, if he can't find purpose in life then he'll find purpose in death.
"It was very fun to balance between the two emotions and really when I talk about the character, he's not very confident, but ... he's not a victim," Bénard said. "He doesn't really catch what's funny, and not, he's just between the two lines and analyzing everything he feels in his life."
"He's like, OK so I don't have my place in this life. I don't like life so maybe I want to die. ... Oh there's someone who wants to kill, I'm going to volunteer myself. So he's analyzing everything that he does."
Blending retro, nostalgic visual elements in a modern landscape
In terms of the aesthetic of the film, Louis-Seize is able to beautifully include very retro-looking elements in a story that feels quite modern.
"It's a nice playground to play with all those eras, all together, and vampires are so old so you have to bring those elements and play with this nostalgia, but also modern aspects of life," Louis-Seize said. "I really have a dialogue with all my collaborators in every visual aspect, ... to talk about colour palette, but also which character will represent which era and how to find the balance."
For the filmmaker, the key word to describe Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person is "playful."
"To not ... intellectualize the process [too much]," Louis-Seize said. "I'm a creator who's really in the small details, and all my collaborators were freaks about detail as well."