Along with having what is perhaps the finest title at the festival, Canadian director Ariane Louis-Seize has developed a brilliantly comedic story that gives a unique spin on the traditional combination of teenage angst and vampires.
It’s not always easy to come up with a catchy title for a movie. The number of bad ones is much higher than the number of good ones (in 2015, The Hollywood Reporter included Dude, Where’s My Car, Freddy Got Fingered, and Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones on its list of the 50 worst films of all time). Which is why, when a knock-out name falls into the lap of a filmmaker, it is frequently worth them modifying whatever project they had planned to make it work in order to make the most of the opportunity.
This is essentially what took place with the film Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person, which made its debut in the Giornate degli Autori sidebar at Venice and is in the running for the title of greatest film title of the year.
Ariane Louis-Seize, a Canadian writer and director, claims that she had a hazy notion to make a short film about a vampire girl who publishes an ad in a newspaper searching for willing blood donors. However, when she offered this idea to her co-writer Christine Doyon, Christine remarked Ariane: “So there’s your title. And at that point I was like, “Oh yeah!”
She ditched the plans she had for the short film, rewrote the story, and made it her first directorial effort after coming up with this intriguing new moniker for the character.
Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person, which was filmed in and around Montreal, gives the pairing a new twist. The story centers on Sasha, a sensitive young vampire who has such a strong aversion to killing that she is unable to even draw her fangs. While teenage angst and vampires may have been regular on-screen bedfellows since at least Twilight (and possibly even Buffy), the movie gives the pairing a new spin. After being kicked out by her disappointed parents, who cut off her life-giving supply of blood bags (kept in the refrigerator and topped up by the murders they’re obliged to execute themselves), she meets a suicidal teenager named Paul, and the two realize that their different predicaments could be mutually beneficial to one another.
Louis-Seize says that ever since she made her first short film, 2016’s Wild Skin (about a young woman who has a strange erotic experience after finding a live python in her apartment), she has wanted to make a movie about vampires. She was inspired by — among other genre titles — A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (which she showed to her lead actress, Sara Montpetit), and she says that she has wanted to make a vampire movie ever since.
“I watched a lot of vampire movies, and I wanted to reference them, but at the same time, I also wanted to do my own thing,” she explains. “I’m also really inspired by mumblecore and coming-of-age stories, as well as the visual aesthetics of Wes Anderson.”
Louis-Seize states that it wasn’t until she saw the film “The Hunger” from 1983 that she realized that movies about vampires could talk about “lots of deep, human struggles.” This realization occurred many years ago. The film featuring David Bowie was the first one she had seen in which vampires were portrayed as something other than bloodthirsty killers. “It was something in between attraction and repulsion, and I like that grey area where I can play around.”
One of the novel (at least, she thinks so) vampire features that Louis-Seize contributed to her film was Sasha’s life-giving baggies, which she is seen noisily sucking on through a straw. This gave the film more comedic undertones, which Louis-Seize wanted to achieve.
“It kind of felt childish, like she was sucking out of a little juice box,” she says. “It felt like she was sucking out of a little juice box.” In light of the fact that Sasha drank such a large quantity, it was necessary for them to devise an appropriate blood substitute that Montpetit could appreciate. “Usually they use corn syrup, but it’s really sweet and we didn’t want her to feel sick, so we tried a few recipes and made her taste each one,” she adds, adding that the production effectively had its own tiny fake blood station. In other words, the corn syrup was used as a substitute for actual blood.
It’s interesting to note that Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person isn’t the only coming-of-age vampire picture that’s making its world premiere in Venice because it was directed by a female filmmaker for the first time. Céline Rouzet makes her directorial debut with the feature film For Night Will Come, which is being shown in the Orizzonti competition. The story centers on a young man in a rural area of France who tries to hide his desire for blood.
According to Louis-Seize, the success of the body horror film Titane, directed by Julia Ducournau and awarded at Cannes, was a major factor in the inclusion of films like these on the Lido.
“I think it was a statement that there’s there’s a place for female genre filmmakers — I think it made a difference for the openness of the festival,” she said. “I think it was a statement that there’s a place for female genre filmmakers.”