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“Humanist Vampire” is sweet, funny, stylish, and clever—a gorgeous gothic treat that takes a tender and thoughtful approach to the subgenre.

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When a subgenre is as saturated and seemingly, pardon the pun, eternal as vampire horror, you’d be forgiven for assuming we’ve seen everything under the lethal sun. Still, some clever filmmakers make us care about a tale as old as time, and on rare occasions, some even deliver something refreshingly original.

With the captivatingly titled Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person, Quebec filmmaker Ariane Louis-Seize, making her feature film directorial debut, more than delivers on the promise of that title with a film that’s funny, quirky, gorgeously gothic, and darkly romantic.

With Humanist Vampire, Louis-Seize, with the help of co-writer Christine Doyon, doesn’t reinvent vampire lore, but she does update it in interesting ways.

In this universe, vampires are born as well as made. Much like in the animated romp Hotel Transylvania, proud vampire parents anxiously await the arrival of their child’s fangs as a sign of maturity, ushering in their transition to full-blown bloodsucker. These vampires also age like humans, albeit at a much slower pace.

And like humans, not every vampire is cut from the same cloth.

Young Sasha’s parents (played as a child by the captivating Lilas-Rose Cantin and later as a teen by the equally mesmerizing Sara Montpetit) are struggling to come to terms with just how different their daughter is.

When a birthday party for young Sasha during the film’s hilarious opening does not go according to plans, her parents (Steve Laplante and Sophie Cadieux) discover that Sasha lacks a killer instinct and has instead been cursed with the worst thing of all: empathy.

As Sasha ages, her pragmatic mother grows significantly less patient with her daughter’s pacifist nature, while her doting father takes a more sympathetic approach.

When Sasha meets an awkward, bullied, misanthropic teen named Paul (Félix-Antoine Bénard), everything changes.

While stalking him late one night, she startles him, and he hits his head. The sight of his blood stirs something in her, equal parts hunger and horror.

She rushes home to quench her thirst with another blood packet, only to make the disturbing discovery that her fangs have finally come in. Her mom insists Sasha go live with a cold but seductively cool cousin, Denise (Noémie O’Farrell), and Denise promises she won’t get a drop of blood she doesn’t secure for herself.

Forlorn and ravenous, Sasha sits in on a suicide prevention support group meeting, where she formally meets Paul, who was forced to attend by his worried mother. When Paul confesses he’d gladly give his life for a good cause, Sasha recognizes an ethical solution to her problem.

She brings him back to Denise’s dungeon-like home to make her first consensual kill. But she doesn’t want him to leave this mortal coil without tasting some moment of joy, so she offers him a dying wish.

He wants nothing more than to stand up to his terrorizing bully, a sadistic co-worker at the bowling alley where he works. But when the time comes, he can’t muster up the courage. Thus, the pair go on a spree across town, letting Paul practice being brave by standing up to anyone who has ever wronged him or caused him the slightest inconvenience.

It’s joyful watching the two loveable misfits bond while racing around town, causing minor mischief and mayhem without fear of consequences. They are living like there’s no tomorrow because, for Paul at least, there isn’t supposed to be.

But it turns out that the cure for feeling devastatingly alone is to connect with another soul who sees you, understands you, and can help bring light into the overwhelming darkness of the world. Perhaps there’s another way for Sasha to be the vampire she needs to be while remaining the humanist she yearns to be— and maybe Paul can find an escape from the pain of the world while still living in it.

Humanist Vampire pulls liberally from worthy inspirations too numerous to list.

It recalls films from Let the Right One In to What We Do in the Shadows, Only Lovers Left Alive to A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night.

Yet, it feels quite original, like a wholly captivating synthesis of the many influential coming-of-age and subversive vampire films that came before with an effortless charm and creativity that elevate it above more derivative fare.

There are serious subjects explored, including themes of loneliness, despair, a sense of otherness and lack of belonging, the conflict between morality and survival, and even the heartbreaking desire to end the suffering of life.

Yet, it’s all handled with such compassion, care, and sensitivity that it never feels too morose or heavy-handed. It’s got enough gravitas to feel substantial, but a wonderfully adept lighter touch keeps it feeling whimsical and far more heartfelt than horrific.

The cast is uniformly delightful, but the two leads are the infinitely capable anchors that make HUMANIST VAMPIRE as effective and endearing as it is.

Humanist Vampire

Sara Montpetit is especially outstanding, exuding a hypnotic, sullen but sensitive goth teen appeal reminiscent of Winona Ryder in Beetlejuice. That’s apropos given how well Louis-Seize channels Tim Burton’s knack for darkly ethereal whimsy and visual panache.

Bénard is equally convincing and impossibly likable as a nervous, perpetually put-upon teen who feels lost in a cold, cruel world. He’s sweet, relatable, and wickedly funny.

Humanist Vampire may not deliver for hardcore horror fans looking for gore and intense scares.

Still, genre lovers who appreciate humorous and heartfelt love letters to classic horror and films that cleverly explore the monster-as-metaphor trope should find much to appreciate in this funny, feel-good romp.

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 4
HUMANIST VAMPIRE SEEKING CONSENTING SUICIDAL PERSON was screened for this review during the Chattanooga Film Festival 2024. It will receive a nationwide rollout from Drafthouse Films following its opening in NYC and LA theaters starting June 21, 2024.  

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