Films about the vampire genre usually revolve around the lifestyles of fanged creatures, the moral dilemma inherent within the act of murder for sustenance (or lack thereof), and the gap between an immortal existence and the transience of the human body. Blaine Thurier’s Kicking Blood touches upon these tropes, attempting to create a morally complex scenario in which a vampire named Anna (Alanna Bale) has made the decision to kick off her blood-sucking tendencies in order to be human again. The motivator? Love.
Kicking Blood starts by introducing Anna, who chooses to work at the library despite not having any actual need to (she’s a vampire who has lived many lifetimes). Right from the first frame, Anna is unconventional despite her intrinsic tendencies: although she looks down on humans and merely views them as food at the bottom of the food chain, she kills a guy after he emotionally hurts her friend Bernice (Rosemary Dunsmore) in an act of quiet revenge. Of course, human blood equates to sustenance, but the reason why Anna attacks the man stems from an act of protective empathy for her human acquaintance, which is a rather uncharacteristic trait for an immortal vampire.
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After stumbling across struggling alcoholic Robbie (Luke Bilyk), and choosing not to kill him after she sees that he has already embraced the concept of death, Anna gradually feels a shift in her psyche, her perception of the world, and the way in which she and her vampire friends treat humans as a whole. Her altered worldview, of course, is not shared by the others of her kind, which creates a good part of the central conflict in the narrative, further complicated by her feelings for Robbie, a human she ends up caring deeply about (which are also reciprocated).
Kicking Blood is not without its flaws, as some parts of the narrative seem extremely contrived, such as the way in which Anna and Robbie meet, and how humans choose to act in the midst of potential danger. However, these parts can be easily overlooked in the face of how the film handles its subject matter. There’s incredible depth in the way in which Anna struggles with her newfound humanity, caught between her natural instincts (and sole source of nutrition) and her existential ennui, which robs her of the desire to even exist.
The visual language of Kicking Blood is nothing short of beautiful, be it the way in which Anna’s face is drenched in a neon glow when she gets a heroin-like high after feeding, or the sequences in which the vampires go out to hunt. Bale plays her role with remarkable nuance, imbibing a character so torn and flawed while maintaining an off-handed, bored, icy expression that befits an immortal predator. However, beneath the veneer, she cares. She cares, and at times, she does not, making her more human than the humans around her, especially in her decision to abstain from the one thing that keeps her alive.
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Oscillating from a phantasmagoria of visuals to the unstated vignettes of human/para-human emotions, Kicking Blood is a compelling addition to an overwrought genre, making it worth a watch.