Kiss of the Damned (2012)
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With the undeniable success of The Twilight Saga film series, seeing other vampire movies try to catch on isn't unexpected. That's maybe a bit unfair to say about Kiss of the Damned because I don't think Xan Cassavetes of the famed Hollywood Cassavetes family has the same aspirations. It was released at the 2013 SXSW Film Festival and later released to probably only a handful of theaters. With a lifetime gross of only $14, 752, I don't think money or mainstream success was the biggest goal here.
Xan Cassavetes has tapped into a more convincing version of vampire folklore than Twilight but that's not something that's especially difficult to do. Vampires prey upon their victims in sexual encounters and burn in the sun as they should! Kiss of the Damned is a more satisfying version of vampires and the so-called vampire community that exists in the film presents an interesting premise.
Djuna (Josephine de La Baume) is a vampire who lives in a huge house on her own. She only comes out at night to go to the video store or the local bar. She catches the attention of Paulo (Milo Ventimiglia), a movie scriptwriter who makes a series of advances towards her but she rebuffs him. Not wanting to make him a prisoner of her lifestyle, in the end Djuna is unable to resist Paulo's advances and turns him into a vampire so they can be together. Life appears to be pretty sweet until Djuna's sister Mimi (Roxane Mesquida) arrives and is as unstable as they come.
My favourite thing about Kiss of the Damned is just how visually engrossing it is. I'm a sucker for interesting visual displays and Xan Cassavetes has definitely created some impressive stuff. Lighting, colours and camera play are all well showcased. There are also some interesting editing choices with the animal hunting scenes and great use of sound throughout. It's artsy and not for everything but it can be said that KotD is very interesting to look at.
Where things seem to get a bit problematic is when it comes to the dialogue. Josephine de La Baume and Roxane Mesquida are both French actresses which I suppose makes for some charming accents. The thing is, the writing of the dialogue isn't that strong and sounds especially weak when you have two actresses who are speaking it as a second language to each other. It would make more sense anyhow for them to be speaking French to each other since it's the language they're comfortable with. Anna Mouglalis plays another prominent vampire in KotD and is French as well. All the other vampires we meet speak English without any accents, so this is not some sort of weird vampire accent or anything like that.
Dialogue is also weak at other times, particularly during a vampire get together. Maybe vampires all talk with weird vocabulary but it just sounds extremely unnatural and bizarre. The film features many sex scenes that are stylishly filmed and drawn out which are probably the defining quality of Kiss of the Damned. If lots of sex isn't for you, avert your eyes because there's lots. There are also some interesting music selections which create a pretty cool vibe overall.
Kiss of the Damned is not the best nor the worst vampire movie ever. It falls somewhere in the middle as an extremely stylish flick with uneven dialogue. Xan Cassavetes also uses flashbacks a bit too much as a crutch when it isn't necessary, but I really did enjoy the visual feast that she's created. If you like art house and you like vampires, Kiss of the Damned is probably just right for you.
Seen at the London Film Festival this is the first feature by Xan Cassavetes (daughter of John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands) and basically wheels out the vampire tropes with a 70s/80s retro schtick, complete with chunky purple titles and electronic score. At the very least Cassavetes should be thanked for attempting to drag the vampire movie back from the Twilight debacle into a bloody and adult place, but doing it with such a weak script and storyline doesn't help, nor being so dependent on eroticism - a times it feels like a cheap soft core film given how much sex is crammed in. The largely European cast look good with their clothes off and the blue contacts in but can't really act all that well - where the film really succeeds is in the atmospheric night time cinematography. I doubt very much if this will get a cinema release but will definitely go down well with vampire fetishists on DVD.
This is on Netflix. It is not worth your time, trust me. It starts out promising, particularly when the soon-to-be bitten "hero" Paulo says "Let me in", twisting the old trope of the vampire being the one seeking entrance through a doorway. But it loses everything once naughty sister vampire (emphasis on the VAMP) comes to town. Wretched script and wretched acting are then the order of the day.
to see which of your friends have seen this movie!