Stéphan Castang has made his directorial feature debut with the accomplished and entertaining Vincent Must Die. Feeding into our current preoccupations with killer viruses, the breakdown of society and an increase in senseless violence, the film follows Vincent as he tries to elude death’s clutches. Although Vincent Must Die suffers a little from the director teetering between a mess of genres, it is funny and intelligent, and has a great lead in Karim Leklou as the hapless hero.

The premise is simple: Vincent is a successful graphic designer working at a small firm. He’s single, he’s a bit overweight but perfectly presentable, and – judging from the photos in his apartment – he’s popular and sociable. He is your archetypal metropolitan man. But when he makes an ill-judged comment to a new intern, the new kid takes swift and violent umbrage. When another colleague later attacks him with a pen, it appears that there is a wider and more insidious problem.

Castang has great fun with office politics and political correctness gone mad: rather than calling the cops on the intern, excuses are made for his “burn out” and he is allowed to finish his work experience. After the second incident, the police are involved but are keen for the two men to settle their differences and go out for a drink. The docile and doe-eyed Vincent agrees to this idea as his colleague weeps with relief.

As the situation worsens for Vincent, with random attacks coming from all fronts (elderly women, children and neighbours are just some of his adversaries), he decides the best thing to do is to take shelter and remove himself from society. A chance encounter with a homeless man opens his eyes to his predicament and this is when he learns that this is a widespread problem. Is it a virus? Is it global? Is there a cure? For now, the only hope for Vincent is to get himself a dog and keep out of harm’s way.

Vincent Must Die

After moving to his family’s holiday home, he encounters Margaux (Vimala Pons), an attractive waitress at the local diner who initially seems immune to whatever ails all of Vincent’s other assailants. Like Vincent, she’s a bit of an outsider, not at home in her hometown, in debt and living on a cramped boat. Their relationship gets off to an inauspicious start and then looks like it could get really dark: hitting, strangulation, handcuffs and blindfolds all quickly get a look in as their romance blooms quicker than a bruise on a freshly whacked cheek.

One obvious question isn’t answered. If eye contact is the problem, then why does Vincent never wear dark glasses? Surely he could go out into the world without fear if only he would don a pair of shades. But as Castang is showing us such a good time, it seems churlish to ask.

Castang is having such a good time himself with so many genres, he is not quite sure which direction to take: zombie horror? Rom com? Social commentary? He decides to go with all of them and something is lost because of this. He could have made something far darker and harder hitting with a real comment on the world’s malaise. Instead, he has created a clever comedy that, for all its horror, is as charming as hell.