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#TIFF21 Review: Kicking Blood (Contemporary World Cinema)

September 10, 2021

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

Anna (Alanna Bale), the immortal protagonist of Kicking Blood, is a young vampire who is intrigued by mortals. She works a day job in a library, and is friends with her dying, elderly co-worker (Rosemary Dunsmore), which is perplexing to the rest of her undead crew who only go out to hunt at night and view humans only as animals to be killed for food. When she meets Robbie (Luke Bilyk), a suicidal alcoholic sobering up on the street, she takes him back to her place. But instead of sucking his blood and getting “high as fuck,” she lets him live and gives him a place to crash as he tries to quit drinking.

The latest film directed by Canadian musician and filmmaker Blaine Thurier, Kicking Blood is an indie twist on the vampire genre that is more tonally similar to Jim Jarmusch’s hip Only Lovers Left Alive than it is a straight up horror movie. Not all of the characters feel equally well developed though – Robbie’s ex-girlfriend (Vinessa Antoine) just sort of enters the picture out of nowhere – and the film doesn’t quite sustain itself, even at a scant 79 minutes. The story also grows somewhat clichéd and predictable as it goes along and becomes more of a vampire romance.

But Thurier does a fine job with the atmospherics of Kicking Blood, especially in the first half, with the streets of Sudbury where the film was shot giving it a gritty, urban aesthetic. At its best, the film has a woozy, after hours feel to it that is somewhat intoxicating, and there are some moments of existential conversation that I found intriguing. Finally, the story does an alright job drawing comparisons between Anna’s reliance on drinking blood and Robbie’s alcoholism, and Bale delivers a pretty good performance as a vampire tempted by humanity and rethinking her own immortality.

Public Screenings:

Friday, September 10th – 9:00 PM at Scotiabank Theatre

Saturday, September 11th – 9:00 PM at digital TIFF Bell Lightbox (Canada)

Tuesday, September 14th – 3:00 PM at digital TIFF Bell Lightbox (Canada)

The 2021 Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 9th to 18th.

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