Dir.: Ariane Louis-Seize; Cast: Sara Montpetit, Felix Antoine Benard, Steve Laplante, Sophie Cadieux, Noemie O’Farrell; Canada 2023, 88 min.
Ariane Loise-Seize opts for an extravagant title in her deadpan feature debut. Co-written with Christine Doyon, this quirky Canadian comedy is a roller-coaster of conflicting emotions centred around Sasha, a bloodthirsty vampire who would rather die than harm.
In Montreal, we meet family favourite Sasha celebrating her birthday. The gift of a piano goes down well and proves her to be a natural on the ivories, but a clown follows next as her first victim. The family can’t wait for her get their fangs into this helpless ‘amuse-guele’ but Sasha gives it a wide berth.
Sasha has been groomed for her life of bloodlust with a diet of German vampire movies of the silent era. But this gorefest has the opposite effect on her: Sasha feels empathy for human potential victims and enters adulthood (she is 68, but looks decades younger) without draining a single drop of the crimson nectar she craves.
Maybe she’s a late developer? Her father, (LaPlante) an academic, is philosophical and bides his time but her mother (Monpetit) is impatient for Sasha to get her fangs into someone: “I am not going to hunt for you for the next 200 years” is a warning cry, so Sasha spends a spell with her aunt to cut her teeth and get cracking.
Enter Paul (Benard), a suicidal young man, tormented by group of punks led by Henry. Cousin Denise encourages Sasha to complete the first kill – and age gracefully like auntie Victoria (375). But Paul falls for Sasha (whence the film gets its title) and is desperate for revenge on Henry. Sasha is well aware of her need to “transfer” Paul (AVATAR like) to his vampire status. Somehow she must pounce.
This amusing tragicomedy unfolds in a similar albeit more upbeat vein to Let the Right One In with DoP Shawn Pavlin taking a Grimm’s fairy tale approach, incorporating realistic elements to reflect the present – equally dark and foreboding – as the outwardly pleasant and moderate vampire world. Sasha has to fight on both fronts and develops a certain taste for violence when cornered. But she (and Paul) must be true to the mission: to remain humanist at all times. A great premise but a bit of a ”one-act-pony”, even at 88 minutes. The final reel feels rather drained of the energy spent in the early part of the story. Still, Human Vampire is one-off and highly entertaining, Ariane Louis-Seize is certainly a talent to reckoned with. AS
WINNER of the 2023 GdA Director’s Award. GIORNATE DEGLI AUTORI VENICE and TORONTO 2023