Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Kicking Blood: Vampires & Addiction

In fictional worlds where vampires are real, we still don’t really know much about their physiology, because the academics like Prof. Van Helsing who acknowledge their existence, mostly concentrate on killing them. Really, who can say whether a vampire like Anna can quit sucking blood cold turkey? Vampires are real, but addiction is a monster she and her mortal lover must both face in Blaine Thurier’s Kicking Blood, which releases this Thursday in theaters.

Nocturnal Anna actually works a library job, because she believes living off money plundered from her victims has no dignity. Her shallow hunting-mates, Boris and Nina, have no such scruples. They fancy themselves gods, but they are more like parasites—as Anna is starting to realize. Regardless, she still has to feed. When Anna brought home down-and-out Robbie, she assumed he would be an easy victim. Once he figures out her uncanny nature, Robbie even resigns himself to his fate. Yet, something stops her. Instead of sucking his blood, she gives him a place to stay while kicking booze the hard way.

However, she can’t let her so-called vampire friends know about him. They frown on human relationships. Boris and Nina would also be alarmed to see how emaciated she looks, after she swears off human blood-sucking.

Kicking Blood
is a grungy, low-fidelity vampire movie, aesthetically and thematically akin to Joe Begos’s Bliss, but its narrative and central relationship provide a far more compelling viewing experience. Unlike most films, Kicking grows on the audience as it goes along, because Anna and Robbie become more sympathetic (and more interesting) as they strive be a better man and vamp. Yet, they must overcome the opposition of the toxic people and vampires around them.

That might sound like vampirism is an annoyingly obvious metaphor for addiction, which it basically is, but somehow Thurier never conspicuously over-sells it. Anna’s concern for an aging human co-worker (nicely played by Rosemary Dunsmore) also adds a further “humanizing” element.

As Anna and Robbie, Alanna Bale and Luke Bilyk develop some appropriately odd, yet convincing chemistry together. Star-crossed love does not get much more complicated, but there is nothing melodramatic about it. Bale is especially notably for the way she follows in the brooding, emotionally-complex tradition of vampires.

Of course, we know trying to kick vampirism is like trying to leave the Mafia. The bad guys always try to pull you back in. Sometimes Thurier lets the tension slacken a bit, but the personal, “wellness” focus on the undead distinguishes it from so many other blood-sucker movies. Recommended for vampire fans,
Kicking Blood opens this Thursday (3/31) in select theaters.