White Skin (AKA Cannibal AKA La Peau Blanche) (2004)

When it was imported to the US, the French-Canadian film White Skin, or La Peau Blanche, was repackaged as Cannibal, a title that not only obliterated the racial connotations of the movie, but also proved to be just plain wrong. This is a vampire — or perhaps more accurately, a succubus — movie, not a cannibal movie, and it’s an unusually thoughtful and provocative vampire movie at that, with a unique racial spin on the typical vampire mythology.

Based on a novel by Joel Champetier, it opens with a discussion between pasty-skinned Thierry (Marc Paquet) and his black friend Henri (Frederic Pierre) regarding Henri’s belief that the white race is really the “colored race,” since blackness is the absence of color. Later, Henri’s aunt Marie-Pierre expands on the premise, explaining that “black is the normal skin color” and quoting a study that found DNA from every human group in the world in the tissue of black people. Thus, blacks are the original race and whites are like mutants; they’re diluted.

Black nationalism aside, it turns out that for the purposes of succubi, Henri and Marie-Pierre are right. Maybe black skin has more vitamins; maybe it just makes them feel more hip. Whatever the reason, succubi love dark meat! It’s an intriguing setup, especially in light of the whole “black people always die in horror movies” thing, since this time there’s actually a legitimate reason written into the plot for the black characters to be targeted. Plus, in light of the whole vampire lore, it would make sense that light-sensitive night crawlers might want to absorb some of the genetic properties of darker-skinned people who thrive in the sunlight. How else do you explain Eminem?

As for the story, Thierry’s moody new girlfriend, Claire (Marianne Farley), of course turns out to be a succubus, and although she wants to “get out of the biz,” her family would prefer to take a bite out of her boyfriend and his scrumptious black friend. The pace is a bit slow, and those looking for over-the-top cinematic vampirism with fangs and coffins and stakes might be disappointed, but White Skin nonetheless provides an engaging, thought-provoking take on an established legend.

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