Stop me if you heard this one: some guy falls in love with a beautiful girl who spurns his advances on the basis that she is a creature of the night and would eventually suck his blood and turn him into an undead creature of the damned. That’s basically the premise of Kiss of the Damned but that part of the story only takes up the first twenty minutes or so and gives us a steamy sex scene to keep our interest level up. The film is influenced by the Jean Rollin films of the 60’s, where the plot is secondary to the mood and ambiance of the film. And the style over substance formula works in favor of this film.
The love affair between newly turned vamp Paolo (Milo Ventimigila, Heroes and Rocky Balboa) and Djuna (Josephine La Baume (Johny English Reborn) flourishes during the first act of the film. They fall in love at a video store where they are both returning tapes and they fall in love at first sight (or bite hahaha). She keeps him at a distance until she finally reveals that she is a vampire. Paolo, being a screenwriter, of course doesn’t believe her, but after she chains herself to the bed in a flimsy nightgown (that falls open during her gyrations exposing her sexy lingerie) so she can change into a vampire without attacking him, his opinion changes. He responds as any man would by starting to have sex with her, and unchaining her. She then bites him during the coitus and thus their love affair is sealed. She explains to him the ins and outs of the vampire life style. Her mansion is provided for all their needs and is complete with a loyal maid who has a blood disorder that keeps her safe from their vampiric nature.
They talk lovingly about how they will never get sick, or old, and have lots of hot sex while indulging in their nature. It’s all fun and games until Djuna’s hotter sister Mimi (Roxanne Mesquida, Rubber and Gossip Girl) comes to stay with them for a little while. Mimi lacks the restraint of others in the vampire community and this causes her to be instantly mistrusted as her violent impulsiveness could bring them under human scrutiny. The film then follows the collision course that happens as Mimi manipulates everyone around her in order to get her way. The two lovers also secretly betray the other in ways that seem insurmountable and put their relationship in jeopardy. The nature of love and family bonds are questioned as the film reaches it’s climax.
Director/Writer Xan Cassavetes (daughter of The Dirty Dozen director John Cassavetes) does a good job in her first feature length film. The film is elegant and classy while at the same time being very lurid and bloody. Though it can be very expressionistic and experimental, it’s also straight forward enough so that even stupid people can enjoy it. Watching it, I couldn’t make up my mind if this was a very terrible movie or a very good movie; I’d say like most cult films which Cassevetes is trying to mimic it falls somewhere in between. The subject matter is very silly but the film itself is so well done that it’s hard to think of it as a B movie. Xan makes the movie like a fever dream and I’d say she is successful in achieving her goals. The acting is top notch, especially from the vampire leader and Broadway actress Xenia (french actress Anna Mouglalis), but the subject matter is camp material played straight. Milo Ventimiglia rocks an awesome beard. Micheal Rappaport makes a neat cameo as Paolo’s agent who meets an unfortunate end.
I don’t mind movies where plot is secondary to the atmosphere, as long as I feel the director actually has a story to tell. Cassavetes does and scores herself a nice little movie for retro horror fans to sink their teeth into. The only real downside is that by this point the vampire genre has been done to death, but it’s still nice to see it treated with such respect. It gives us a nice love story, just mushy enough for the chicks, and with enough sex for the guys. The lush score which ranges from Chopin to techno also helps elevate the film and aids in it’s surrealistic feel. All in all, Kiss of the Damned is a nice little cult film that is worth watching, preferably drinking a glass of red wine late at night on a weekend when you’ve nothing better to do but lay back, chill, and watch a movie. At the end of the film I was left feeling slightly intoxicated, sensual, and in love with life, which isn’t something a lot of films do. My final thoughts on the film is that it’s a really cool movie that deserves more credit from horror fans than it probably will actually get given it’s subject matter. Ah well, I look forward to what Xan Cassevetes has next for us.