Finding a good movie title can be difficult. Bad ones are far more common (in 2015 The Hollywood Reporter listed Dude, where’s my car?, Freddy was fingered And Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones among the 50 worst of all time). That’s why when a stunning name lands on a filmmaker’s lap, it often pays to tweak their planned project to make it work.
This is what – somehow – happened Humanistic vampire seeks consenting suicide bombersbows in Venice’s Giornate degli Autori sidebar and is a contender for best film title of the year.
Canadian writer/director Ariane Louis-Seize says she had a vague idea to make a short film about a vampire girl who places an ad in a newspaper looking for willing blood donors, but when she told her co-writer Christine Doyon suggested, and she told her, “So there’s your title. And I thought, “Oh yeah!”
With this new, eye-catching name in hand, she scrapped her plans for the short, changed the plot, and made it her directorial debut.
Even if teenage angst and vampires have been for at least dusk (and maybe even Buffy), Humanistic vampire seeks consenting suicide bombers – filmed in and around Montreal – gives a new twist to the pairing and follows Sasha, a sensitive young vampire with such a dislike for killing that she is unable to even pull out her fangs. Cast out by her disappointed parents, who cut off her life-giving supply of blood bags (which are kept in the fridge and replenished by the murders they are forced to commit themselves), she meets suicidal teenager Paul, and they realize that their location could be mutually beneficial.
Louis-Seize says she’s had a desire to do a vampire film ever since she made her first short film in 2016 wild skin (about a young woman who has a strange erotic experience after finding a live python in her apartment) and was inspired by the following, among various genre titles: A girl walks home alone at night (which she showed to her leading lady, Sara Montpetit).
“I’ve seen a lot of vampire movies and wanted to relate to them, but I also wanted to do my own thing,” she says. “I’m also inspired by mumblecore and coming-of-age stories and Wes Anderson’s visual aesthetic.”
It was after I saw the 1983 film The hunger Many years ago, Louis-Seize said that watching vampire films made her realize that there were “many deep, human struggles” to talk about. The film, starring David Bowie, was the first she saw where vampires weren’t just bloodthirsty killers. “It was something between attraction and repulsion, and I like that gray area to play around in.”
One of the new vampire elements (at least in her opinion) that Louis-Seize added to her film to give her film more of a comedy touch was Sasha’s life-giving pouches, which she sucks noisily through a straw.
“It felt kind of childish, like she was sucking out of a little juice box,” she notes. Given the amount Sasha drank, they had to develop a suitable blood substitute for Montpetit to enjoy. “They usually use corn syrup, but it’s really sweet and we didn’t want to make her nauseous, so we tried a few recipes and had her taste each one,” she says, adding that the production is actually her own little fake blood had train station.
Oddly enough, Humanistic vampire seeks consenting suicide bombers is not the only coming-of-age vampire film from a debut filmmaker to premiere in Venice. For Night Will Come, Céline Rouzet’s feature film debut and screening in the Orizzonti Competition, is about a teenager in a small town in France who tries to hide his bloodlust.
Louis-Seize suspects that it was Julia Ducournau’s Cannes-winning body horror film Titane that paved the way for such titles to come to the Lido.
“I think it was a statement that there is a place for female genre filmmakers – I think it made a difference to the festival’s openness.”