[Fantasia 2023 Review] VINCENT MUST DIE

This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, films like VINCENT MUST DIE being covered here wouldn’t exist.

Vincent could be any of us.

He’s a normal enough guy. He wakes up in the morning and rides his bike to and from his day job as a graphic designer. He’s a friend. A coworker. A neighbor. He has relationship issues, as many of us do.

So why does it seem like everyone is suddenly out to get him?

This is the hook behind Stéphan Castang’s VINCENT MUST DIE. It’s a real barn burner, equal parts smart and thrilling, with trappings of zombie cinema, action, and pitch-black humor.

Vincent (Karim Leklou) is at the office one day when he makes an insensitive, albeit innocently-motivated remark at an intern. Shortly after, the intern attacks him in a fit of rage. It’s a shock to everyone, but they chalk it up to the intern not having the thick skin required for such a work environment.

The next day, Vincent is again attacked at work, now by a different employee. Only this time, it’s someone Vincent has hardly ever interacted with, and even the coworker is unsure what caused him to lash out at Vincent. Nevertheless, the two of them shake hands and let bygones be bygones.

As time passes, Vincent realizes that more and more people seem intent on hurting him for no particular reason. Research on the internet leads him to believe that others may have also experienced this phenomenon. As he attempts to piece together why this is happening to him, he recognizes that he will need to change his way of life to avoid triggering any further attacks.

VINCENT MUST DIE wrings so much suspense from its simple premise, leaving us waiting for the next inevitable altercation at the drop of a hat. After an exceptionally tense first third, the action (often accompanied by a thumping synthesizer score) does take a backseat, however, as Vincent decides to lay low in the French countryside.

He later meets a waitress named Margaux (Vimala Pons), with the two sharing a friendship that’s both believable and integral to the crux of the film’s humanist themes. It would also be a disservice for me not to shout out Sultan, Vincent’s canine companion and one of the best on-screen dogs in years. But Leklou is ultimately the one tasked with carrying the sharply-told tale as an everyman thrust into a nightmarish scenario and forced to adapt to survive.

And that is one of the biggest strengths of Castang’s picture: Vincent could be any of us. After all, it’s no secret that acts of senseless violence plague us daily. It’s on every damn news channel. It’s regularly trending on Twitter (or X I suppose). It’s scary as hell, and we’re left to deal with the chaos. But maybe amid that chaos is someone or something that makes it all worthwhile. VINCENT MUST DIE is as much a movie about anger as it is about the importance of human connection – an evergreen sentiment particularly resonant in these divided times.

VINCENT MUST DIE made its North American premiere at Fantasia Film Festival on July 21st, 2023.

Tom Milligan
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