It’s such a wonderfully simple yet utterly unique premise. Ever since Sasha (Sara Montpetit) was a young vampire, she’s been unable to bare her fangs. Maybe it’s the product of PTSD (after a hilarious “clown incident”). Or maybe it’s a result of her body chemistry triggering her compassion center at the sight of human duress rather than hunger like the rest of her species. Thus sustenance comes only from the blood bags others provide her.
Dad (Steve Laplante) is sympathetic. Mom (Sophie Cadieux) is frustrated. He wants to give their daughter time to grow into her own skin. She wants to stop having to be the only one who hunts out of the three of them. So after a few decades pass and Sasha’s more heartless aunt (Marie Brassard) bends their ears towards tough love, the time to kick her out of the nest arrives. Her ruthless cousin (Noémie O’Farrell) agrees to show her the ropes, but Sasha just can’t bring herself to kill.
Ariane Louis-Seize’s debut feature is thus perfectly titled like a “Want Ad”: Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person. Why? Because she and co-writer Christine Doyon acknowledge the reality that, whether intentionally or not, Sasha is herself suicidal in this refusal to feed. Every day she goes without drinking blood is a day closer to death. So she attends a group meeting for depressives to try and figure things out. Can finding a new lease on life bypass her unyielding morality? How about the other members’ willingness to die?
Cue Paul (Félix-Antoine Bénard). He too is suicidal. Intentionally so. At least that’s what he tells himself. When you go up on the roof of the bowling alley where you work enough times for your bully of a co-worker (Arnaud Vachon’s Henry) to joke that you need to jump or come back and handle the shoe counter, something is obviously holding him back. Maybe it’s the prospect of having to do it himself. That’s why meeting Sasha proves mutually beneficial: he can volunteer to be her lifeline if she agrees to be his reaper.
Add a wrinkle that consent might not be enough to assuage her guilt and the two engage in an awkward yet empowering night of wish fulfillment wherein Paul finds the courage to finally stand up to everyone in their small town who wronged him and tell them to “shove it” without the threat of consequences. Unless, of course, the two become such good friends that their pact inevitably evolves into something else. The question, then, becomes not about whether Sasha can do what’s needed, but whether she can do it… differently.
This shared adventure is blissfully sweet despite the horror subject matter. Their shyness is always on display, even when they’re trying to break free of their insecurities not to be what the world demands of them. Bénard looks perpetually scared, eyes wide open while Montpetit does everything she can to make herself small and invisible. Only when they’re alone together do their personalities shine. There’s an utterly fantastic scene where the two listen and dance to a record with all the embarrassment that comes from the vulnerability of allowing oneself to have fun in the presence of another.
The adults looming like helicopter parents, desperate to witness their little Sasha become a full-fledged vampire, proves a cutely comical and oppressively stifling contrast. And with O’Farrell’s cousin pushing her to the brink of decency, you must wonder if it will all end with Sasha combusting under the sun to simply escape the pressure. Despite its darkly supernatural package, however, Louis-Seize’s film adheres to its idiosyncratic tone of purposeful excitement for a future that’s hardly assured––death can be a beginning too. Rather than adhere to the status quo by taking people’s lives, maybe Sasha can somehow take their deaths instead.
Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person screened at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival.