Vincent Must Die ★★★ 1/2 Fantasia International Film Festival 2023

Vincent Must Die ★★★ 1/2 Fantasia International Film Festival 2023

A great absurdist genre mashup, Stéphan Castang’s Vincent Must Die, is an entertaining, action-packed romp. Unpredictable, it is undoubtedly a film that keeps its audience on their toes.

The awkward Vincent is just an average guy working at a tedious office job when an intern violently assaults him out of the blue, which soon develops into continuing attacks by random strangers. To survive, he will have to observe behavioural patterns in others and figure out why he’s the target of these sudden bursts of aggression while adapting to a new lifestyle.

Vincent Must Die is a film where writer Mathieu Naert and director Stéphan Castang simply decided to say screw it; what if there was a film that had a bit of everything, and we just threw every idea at the wall, and if it sticks, it sticks. If it doesn’t, it will at least be entertaining. This is in no way to disparage the film either; it is a thoroughly entertaining jaunt that just about holds itself together by the credits.

Sure, there are shades of films like Shaun of the Dead and The Sadness here, and there will be many people who will compare the two, but Vincent Must Die is its own glorious little beast. The fact that it keeps its card close to its chest about why this is happening to Vincent drives the film. We want to know as much as he does, plus it allows Naert’s script to take those big swings, genre-wise and specifically with who Vincent fights.

With Karim Leklou, something about his almost non-stop movements gives you an Old Hollywood feel about his film, as if he is performing in a silent film, throwing his body every which way to get away from the continuous fights. It also helps that he has Vincent come across as so helpless. He has no idea what is going on and knows he cannot stop it, so paranoia wrecks him as he tries to survive.

An essential aspect of the film is paranoia; after one or two instances, if you were in Vincent’s shoes, you would find it as if you were having a very rough day. As the number of attackers piles up, you see him become more of a shell of his former self. Realising that he cannot be that way anymore, he is on the highest of alerts and, as such, places us just as much on alert. We scan the screen to see who might be next to go after him. We wish that those he does interact with do not strike. At times it can be slightly panic-inducing, which is a credit to not only the writing and direction but the entire cast’s performances.

With Vincent Must Die, there is definitely a case for a bit of trimming as that relentless opening pace slows down to too much of a crawl in the second half before ramping up again for the final portion. You understand why the film falls into that lull for a short time. However, this is a film that needs to be balls to the wall the whole way through. You forgive it, though, as that opening half and finale more than make up for any minor grievances that you may have.

★★★ 1/2

The Fantasia International Film Festival takes place in Montreal from July 20th through August 9th.

For more of our coverage of Fantasia 2023, please see below:

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