Don’t you just hate when you unknowingly bring a vampire home to spend the night? One minute you’re using the phrase “Oh god” as a statement of exclamatory pleasure, and the next minute you’re calling out God’s name in a fit of religious protection. Hope you brought your garlic flavored condoms, Pope blessed body chocolate, and pure silver crafted – um…I mean…Kiss Of The Damned, right, this is a movie review, not some sick erotic Dracula fan fiction. I’ll save that article for a rainy day.
Xan Cassavetes’ Kiss Of The Damned is about the romantic scenario above, as a screenwriter named Paolo (Milo Ventimiglia) meets a beautiful woman named Djuna (Joséphine de La Baume) who claims she has a skin condition which prevents her from entering the sunlight (hello red flag). Determined to spend the night with Djuna, Paolo finally gets her to release her inner most secret, that fact that she’s actually a vampire, except Paolo accepts it and lets her turn him during a night of passionate lovemaking. He claimed he’d do anything for Djuna, even if that thing is eternal life as a bloodsucking creature apparently, but how will Paolo adapt to his new lifestyle? Did he maybe jump the gun playing charming and lovestruck? He starts out doing just fine, but if anyone can test the vampire newbie, it’s Djuna’s rebellious and wild sister Mimi (Roxane Mesquida).
While Kiss Of The Damned is essentially a soft-core vampire porno, Cassavetes attempts to socially define a vampire’s plight while living in a world among humans, all set to a 70s synthetic organ soundtrack. It’s undeniably hip and sexy, has a wonderful independent feel to, and represents a more mature take on the Twilight storyline which horror fans can appreciate. There’s blood and murder just as there should be in a vampire film. When you bite someone’s neck, it gets messy – it’s inevitable.
With that said, I wasn’t completely sold on the character of Mimi. Her whole “rebel vampire without a cause” mentality felt a little clichéd to me, like a crooked cop or shifty drifter we see in every crime thriller. She kills without restraint and gives the more “sophisticated” vampires a bad name, representing a more feral personality that could put the entire race in jeopardy if her habits were to be uncovered. Considering she drains one victim on a city streetcorner, it’s hard to believe she hasn’t been exposed due to such reckless murderous behavior before. Admittedly it’s fun watching Mimi bring chaos to Djuna and Paolo’s relationship, and Roxane Mesquida plays a sultry and seductive black widow of a character any man would fall prey to, but the “one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch” arc wasn’t thought out ingeniously enough by Cassavetes to make Mimi a gripping villain character.
Paolo and Djuna play the opposite side of the spectrum, choosing sophisticated class and elegance over grungy club scenes. Attending parties where the amuse-bouche is delectable non-human plasma and conversations revolve around belittling us dirty, disgusting humans, our lovers show how snobby and pretentious vampires apparently are, carrying themselves as the 1% Occupy Wall Street protesters were talking about. Sure, Cassavetes was no doubt trying to highlight the drastic morality complex that surrounds selling vampires blood so they can live freely instead of having them kill for pleasure like Mimi, but it’s also about restraint because there’s no doubt Mimi gets off on each kill, yadda yadda yadda, more typical vampire tropes – it’s the story we’ve heard over and over again about vampire assimilation into modern society.
What Cassavetes lacks in vampiric storytelling she makes up for in style though, because Kiss Of The Damned is surely a pleasing visual experience. And no, I’m not only saying that because half the movie seems to just be hot vampires making love, but Cassavetes works some very impressive camera work and set production into her film that creates an almost Victorian feel, of course mixed with today’s random club scene. Watching a vampire relationship has never been so gorgeous, even if the material is drier than a week old corpse with every last drop of blood drained.
Kiss Of The Damned is a modern-day horror love story of boy meets girl, girl turns boy into bloodthirsty vampire, girl’s twisted sister moves in and threatens her new-found relationship – all the while showing the ups and downs of being a vampire. Performances aren’t distracting, visual beauty is abundant, but the story feels like a relationship we’ve seen before – only Xan Cassavetes tries to be edgier and more adult. It works to a degree, but only so much as to credit her film as another cool indie vampire flick some might dig – just don’t expect anything particularly awe-inspiring and you’ll be fine.
Oh yeah, and for the meme fans out there – still a better lovestory than Twilight.
Xan Cassavetes attempts to bring sexy back to the true vampire horror genre, but a story as bland as Djuna's pale skin detracts from Kiss Of The Damned's physical beauty.