TIFF 2021 | Kicking Blood (Blaine Thurier, Canada)

By Gabrielle Marceau

Early in Blaine Thurier’s existential vampire drama, the beautiful, bloodsucking Anna (Alanna Bale) takes home the hapless drunk Robbie. He asks for a drink, and Anna replies: “I don’t drink alcohol.” It’s a clear reference to Bela Lugosi’s iconic line in Dracula (1931), where he lingers deliciously over the pause between, “I don’t drink,” and “wine.” It’s interesting that Thurier would call to mind such an indelibly campy moment, delivered here without the barest pause or a drop of humour. 

Vampires have always been gloomy figures, cursed with eternal life and perpetual thirst. Anna has grown weary of her half-life, living like a junkie on an endless hunt for the next high. She grows fond of humans and decides to stop feeding, hoping for death and maybe redemption. Bale’s performance as Anna is strong, assured and magnetic, but it’s hobbled by frequently clunky dialogue and a shallow, shoehorned-in romance.

There is ample material in the vampire canon to draw from, and Thurier borrows the chilly urban tedium of Let the Right One In (2008) and the existential romance and goth fashion that are, unfortunately, more Buffy the Vampire Slayer than Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992). But there is flair to Kicking Blood, particularly in its setting of wintertime Sudbury, Ontario, which is appealingly bleak and surprisingly glamorous. Thurier’s shots of barren, snow-filled streets are stark and expressive, but the vampires that walk them are less notable: good-looking but tedious thrill-chasers who troll dark bars in tailored suits and slinky red dresses. They look less like immortal creatures of the night and more like people you’d meet at a corporate networking event (terrifying in it’s own right). It’s not a crime to rehash genre tropes—in fact, it’s virtually expected—but Kicking Blood’s pallid rendering of hip vampires and luckless humans is at least deserving of a misdemeanour charge.  

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