Being a teen girl can be a real horror show. Films like Jennifer’s Body, Ginger Snaps, The Craft, Bones and All, Blue My Mind, and The Lure have made this point with various forms of horrific heroines, from the demonic to the lycanthropic, all faced with gore, body horror, and passions that threaten to destroy them. Into their sisterhood now shuffles a sheepish vampire who winces at the thought of causing pain. And yet, Sasha (Sara Montpetit) yearns for blood in the sickly hilarious and surprisingly sweet Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person.
Canadian filmmaker Ariane Louis-Seize makes her feature-length directorial debut with this daring and daffy horror-comedy that plays like Romeo and Juliet meets Beetlejuice and Amelie.
What’s Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person about?
As titles go, this one is pretty revealing, not only setting up the central plotline but also suggesting a “lonely hearts” ad with a dark sense of humor. Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person (aka Vampire humaniste cherche suicidaire consentant in its native Québécois) begins with Sasha, a teen vampire who is a late bloomer, much to the dismay of her family. Though her fangs have come in, she fails to even take a bite of her birthday treat — which is not a cake but a clueless party clown who becomes a family platter for the rest of her blood-sucking brood.
Like in many vampire films, drinking blood is tied to sex. While her fellow vamps are more or less turned on by causing terror and pain in their human prey, Sasha flees from it. Still, she needs blood to “live,” so her perplexed parents provide her baggies of blood to suckle on, much like a kid with a Capri Sun. But Sasha feels an unfamiliar stirring in her fangs when she crosses paths with Paul (Félix-Antoine Bénard), a human high schooler and a mournful misfit who daydreams about death.
Not many movies could pull off a romantic encounter at a suicide prevention group therapy session, but Louis-Seize manages it by leaning keenly into the offbeat but undeniable chemistry between Montpetit and Bénard. There’s an enchanting tenderness between the vampire girl who doesn’t want to hurt anyone and the teen boy who would die to feel his life had been worthwhile.
Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person proves a savage parody of teen romance.
From group therapy, the peculiar pair wanders into the night to have one of those first dates that goes on for hours, tugging them in chaotically entertaining misadventures. (Think Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist but morbid.) Sure, the plan is to end the night with him being her first (consensual victim). But before they get down to brass tacks, Sasha insists Paul should fulfill his last wish, which is to get back at the school bullies who made his life hell.
It’s easy to imagine how this premise in a horror-comedy context could lead to some truly gruesome antics. However, Louis-Seize’s film is restrained on gore, saving it for splashes of blood and viscera that attract yet frighten her harried heroine. Instead, the French-Canadian Humanist Vampire has a gnarly sense of whimsy that recalls the French romance Amelie, where the heroine knew great tragedy yet found compelling pleasures. This movie veers away from charming cafes and quaint fantasy in favor of the lightly macabre — chucking a dead bat at a callous authority figure and cursing out a classmate while running away flipping the bird. Paul’s revenge is so juvenile, so toothless, that it’s almost adorable.
In these childish yet thrilling scraps, Sasha and Paul discover the partner in petty crime they’ve been yearning for. Theirs is the escapist freedom found in the montages of those romantic dramas in which two terminally ill teens connect through cutesy shenanigans that rebel against their doom. Yet here, bathed in the dark shadows and vivid hues of red, orange, and deep blues, these star-crossed lovers have a greater buoyancy, and, weirdly enough, the potential to hope for more than one great night together. Dare we dream with them?
Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person gets that parents are a teenager’s worst nightmare.
Amid the awkward humor of misfit teens acting out and the comedic killing of birthday clowns, Louis-Seize and Christine Doyon’s sharply witty screenplay also skewers the family dynamics that traditionally torture high school heroes in movies and TV.
Sasha’s father (Steve Laplante) is doting, coddling her refusal to hunt — which mirrors the many fathers who fear ever losing their little girl. Her mother, meanwhile, grows to resent having to hunt for the sulking blood-sucker, scolding that she won’t be doing this for the next 300 years! Sasha’s affluent and outspoken aunt, ever clutching a pocketbook and scowling, delivers sharper judgment with hilariously brutal barbs. But most cutting may be her older cousin Denise (Noémie O’Farrell), a bohemian vamp who feeds on the blood of belligerent bro-dudes and has snatched her mercurial charisma from Angelina Jolie circa Girl, Interrupted.
Collectively, this band of vampires creates a family dynamic that is hilariously ghoulish but also joltingly familiar. It’s easy to imagine them strolling into a John Hughes movie, perhaps to wipe the smirk off Ferris Bueller’s face or show Sixteen Candles‘ Samantha Baker how a real party is done. This genre collision between teen comedy, with its overeager romance, rampant horniness, and family hijinks, and coming-of-age horror, with its throbbing sexual threat, hungry heart, and potential for carnage, makes for an unpredictable and intoxicating experience.
Ultimately, Humanist Vampire is more teen comedy than vampire horror. Its fanged heroine is more at peace listening to records with her crush than being the creature going bump in the night. Yet, by employing elements of vampire lore, Louis-Seize manages to creatively express the unique torment that is being a teen girl coming to understand her changing body and growling new desires. Rather than revel in the horror of these changes, this filmmaker sinks into the uneasy sweetness of discovering flirtation, lust, and other prickly pleasures of growing up.
You probably wouldn’t expect a movie that begins with clown slaughter to be so sweet. Yet Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person neatly knits together its darkest elements with threads of whimsy, humor, and tremulous romance to create a vampire tale that is uniquely thrilling and a bloody good time.