By CHRIS HAMMOND
Starring Alanna Bale, Luke Bilyk, and Benjamin Sutherland
Directed by Blaine Thurier
Written by Blaine Thurier and Leonard Farlinger
The film stars a very intriguing Alanna Bale as Anna, Luke Bilyk as Robbie, Benjamin Sutherland as Boris, Ella Jonas Farlinger as Nina (Boris and Nina both vampires hunt with Anna), Rosemary Dunsmore as library employee Bernice (a coworker of Anna), and Vinessa Antoine as Vanessa. The film is produced by New Real Films and Jennifer Jonas .
Anna is a Vampire who works at a library amongst humans. She has one human co-worker friend in an older Bernice. Robbie is a couch surfing alcoholic whose life is rapidly falling apart due to his addiction. Things hit rock bottom for him after waking up on his pregnant sister’s couch and finding out he had made out with her fiancé. Finding himself homeless, unemployed, and facing life on the streets in the harsh winter, his chance encounter with Anna will bring an unbreakable bond. The two talk for a bit before Robbie invites himself back to Anna’s apartment. After some talking, Anna announces that she is a vampire and lets it be known that she is going to feed off him and kill him. The reaction she gets is not one that she expects. Intrigued by Robbie she decides to let him live. Robbie now with a second chance at life vows to stop drinking and go through withdrawals in the lair of his newfound vampire friend. Anna at first tries to tempt Robbie to drink, but later decides that he is a changed man and helps him through his battle, soon he will return the favor to Anna.
Anna is not the only vampire in this town. She spends her time hunting “cattle” with Boris and Nina. These two vampires enjoy eternal life and everything it brings with it. Anna’s views are different from her two vampire counterparts, She wants something more, to be more human and to feel, especially, to once again feel the sun upon her face. She also is curious about death, especially after her friend Bernice’s battle with cancer. Vowing to kick her bloodlust (much to the chagrin of her fellow vampire friends), Robbie helps her through her withdrawals, but is it possible for a vampire to feel human again, Anna hopes so.
Thurier has not only transformed the City of Sudbury (where it is filmed) into a gothic landscape but also manages to tell a story of addiction and vampires in a way that no one before him has been able to.
On the surface, this sounds like just another vampire story. Written/directed by Blaine Thurier and Co-written by, Leonard Farlinger, both of whom have a handful of other efforts, this isn’t a direct horror/fantasy film, as it offers viewers a look inside the minds and lives of addicts and the struggles which they encounter to try and “kick” their vices with temptations around every corner. In this story, the vampire and addict are one and the same and although people may look at addicts as “monsters”, at the core they still have human emotions. The symbolism is that blood isn’t necessarily sustenance of living, but more of an addiction. This actually shows that vampires and humans are one in the same.
Thurier also does a great job at breaking the stereotypical mold of vampires that have been seen way too many times over in films. Gone are the fangs, the viciousness, and oversexed creatures of the night. He introduces the audience to a more laid-back night dweller, one which also can fall into human trappings like an addiction. Anna is different than her batty counterparts. She’s played with going through the motions on everyday eternal life, something she shows she has become bored with. Her chance encounter with Robbie really seems to breathe some life into her (and the same is for Robbie).
It’s not a movie full of dark emotions though, humor is sprinkled into scenes here and there, for instance when Anna brings Robbie home for the first time and says “I’m a vampire”, Robbie replies “I kind of figured”. Isolation is another feeling or theme of the film. We can all relate to this after the last couple of years. The fact that this film was shooting during lockdown only helps the darkness of being deep down in addiction. Robbie and Anna really only have each other to turn to when the chips are down, their “friends” only offer the trappings of addiction instead of helping with getting clean.
Jonathon Cliff, the Cinematographer on the film sets up an atmosphere of darkness brilliantly (Being from Canada, I can tell you the Winter nights are usually bright when the snow is on the ground). Anna’s apartment is always dark in each scene, the shadows do their best to make the setting ominous and claustrophobic. Darkness can also be used as a metaphor for the darkness felt when in the thralls of addiction. Things start to become more clear or (light) as one sheds the chains of addiction, this is especially noticeable in the final shot of the film.
The film’s music is composed by Ohad Benchetrit and Justin Small is dark, ominous, and outstanding. There are many different styles of music used throughout to match tones within scenes. Synth-rock and classical being the most noteworthy. The fact that Writer/Director Blaine Thurier used to be the keyboardist for Vancouver’s band The New pornographers probably only helps to ensure the music is terrific throughout.
The main thing people can take away from Kicking Blood is that addiction is just that, but the fact that there can be life after “kicking” the bad habit only shows that the sun can once again shine on everyone (including vampires) again. The film works on so many levels, It’s a budding love story between Robbie and Anna, it’s a story of addiction, it’s a story of hope, it’s a story that at one point in each of our lives we can relate to or know someone that can relate. In the end, Kicking Blood is just a great story put to film for everyone to enjoy.
Cinefest Sudbury is going on right now September 18-26, 2021
Cinefest Sudbury International Film Festival Website