Alex Heeney reviews Stéphan Castang’s film Vincent Must Die works like a zombie film, where anybody could become a zombie at a moment’s notice — and not the slow-moving kind.
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Horror is often at its best when comedy, scares, and tragedy intersect. It’s true of Fantasia-selected short film Good Condition. And it’s especially true of zombie films like Night Eats the World, and Stéphan Castang’s Vincent Must Die. While waiting for a meeting to begin, Vincent (Karim Leklou) makes a sneering comment to an intern. The intern responds by violently stabbing him. It’s a horrific moment that’s also laugh-out-loud funny.
HR has ways of easily dispensing with an intern who attacks a stand-up employee. But the next day, his colleague attacks him. Immediately afterwards, the colleague is in remorseful tears, unable to explain his behaviour. Soon, it seems, everyone is out to get Vincent. Did Vincent ask for it, or is something more sinister going on? Castang never quite answers that, but certainly the violence is always a disproportionate response.
Soon, Vincent notices that the attacks begin with eye contact. All he has to do is never look anyone in the eye, and he should be safe. But that proves difficult and lonely. He winds up isolated, miserable, and constantly afraid of every mild-mannered person he encounters. When he discovers he’s not the only on battling unprovoked violence, he wonders if it’s some kind of virus.
Finding connection when everyone is out to get you in the film Vincent Must Die, which Alex Heeney reviews
Vincent Must Die is at its best when dealing with the minutiae of what happens when anybody might try to kill you. Is it truly possible to isolate yourself? The result is sometimes grotesque, like a burst septic tank that can’t be fixed because repair people can’t be trusted. What if you fall in love, or think you could? Watching Vincent and his paramour navigate courtship, given he’s a magnet for violence, is both tender and funny. A sex scene hinges on finding somewhere to comfortably handcuff his partner should she get a different kind of urge from looking at him. Sometimes, the horror and comedy intersect, like when Vincent tries to explain to his unconvinced romantic partner that he really is a target by heading to a department store to see what chaos ensues.
Stéphan Casting’s film Vincent Must Die works like a zombie film
Vincent Must Die essentially works like a zombie film, where anybody could become a zombie at a moment’s notice — and not the slow-moving kind. At some point, the entire society seems to have devolved into extreme violence. Is it just the new norm, violence begets violence, or a sign that Vincent’s troubles are the result of being infected by a virus which has since found more hosts?
I like that we don’t know how Vincent may have become ‘infected’, and that more and more people become ‘infected’ from unknown sources. At the same time, people start magically recovering, no longer unintentionally courting violent outbursts. Yet the strain of having lived under constant fear of other people has destroyed their lives and relationships.
A poorly thought-out virus metaphor in the age of COVID-19
The trouble is, it’s hard not to draw real-world connections in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic from a multi-organ damaging virus.Using a virus as a plot device in a post-2019 world feels lazy and deliberately blinkered. It’s not so much escapist or heightened, but somehow cut off from reality. I know there’s massive amounts of COVID denial as the current threat it is. But I kept waiting for Vincent Must Die to deepen, to find insights into the last four years that never came.
MORE: Read about exceptional horror films about women’s agency. Read reviews from the Fantasia Film Festival. Listen to podcasts on our favourite horror films.