Kicking Blood explores themes not normally seen in vampire movies. Anna (Alanna Bale) has long accepted everlasting life. What she has trouble understanding is why humans cannot accept death. After meeting a recovering alcoholic (Luke Bilyk), she decides she is going to battle her own addiction. But is quitting the thing that has kept her alive the best idea?
There are plenty of stories that have dealt with vampires fighting their bloodlust. Kicking Blood does not make Anna’s decision one of morals. She wants to “kick” her habit. It is a neat take that is constantly reinforced in Kicking Blood. Drinking blood gets her high – complete with a morning hangover – and she suffers from withdrawals when she tries to quit. Those expecting a traditional vampire story will get caught off guard, but once the story kicks in, it is impossible to turn away.
The minimalist plot highlights what the audience needs to know. Anna has taken a job at a library that other vampires think is beneath her. The one non vampire friend she has is dying and Robbie’s struggle to stop drinking impresses and fascinates her. It is a detailed character arc that is told concisely and accurately in a great bit of writing. Kicking Blood has mastered the economy of storytelling.
Wisely, the film focuses on its characters instead of going with the rampant violence and bloodsucking sometimes found in the genre. This allows for Kicking Blood’s story to have maximum impact. The movie is a tale of addiction disguised as a vampire movie. It is not until the final moments that everything comes together, but it does lead to a satisfying conclusion.
The Toronto International Film Festival takes place virtually and in person from September 9 – September 18
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