Kiss of the Damned (2012, 1 hr 37 mins.)
What a trip! Just watched Kiss of the Damned, and I couldn’t help feeling this film was a nod to vampire art films of the ’70’s and 80’s. Part Ganja and Hess and part The Hunger, it’s weird, Giallo and Hammer-esque feel kept me watching, first out of curiosity and then with admiration.
Djuna, a beautiful French translator, meets Paolo, a screenwriter who has moved to the countryside to finish a screenplay. Things move quickly, as Paolo becomes obsessed with Djuna, and their passion becomes consuming. Consuming due to the fact that Djuna is actually a vampire that lives a secluded yet civilized life, feigning a skin condition that keeps her out of the sun, and feeding solely on animals. She has not had a lover for decades, and is wary to start anything fresh, but when Paolo insists on seeing her she succumbs and reveals her secret. Seeing no other way to be together, Paolo offers himself to her and she turns him. Their vampiric romantic paradise is interrupted when Mimi, Djuna’s sister, arrives to stay for a week. Mimi, a vampire herself, proves to be all kinds of trouble from eating her dates, steamy scandals, and luring tasty virgins. She is also a threat to the posh, civilized community of vamps led by vampire actress Xenia who are philosophical by nature, and want to change they way they feed, and for their rights to be acknowledged.
I must say, the first half of the film was a mix of weird, choppy shots, moody lighting, dream-like sequences and eerie atmospheric music. I didn’t want to judge it right off the bat, and I’m glad I didn’t. The second half redeemed itself as it became a film noir, with gorgeous sets and wardrobe, giving the film a beautiful stylized look. The moody lighting paid off, as it set the tone for all the trouble Djuna and Paolo encounter, and the deadly misadventures of Mimi.
Directed and written by Xan Cassavetes, daughter of revered actor/director John Cassavetes (Rosemary’s Baby, The Fury), did a decent job creating mood with this film. It was erotic without being gratuitous, and had a European feel with the mostly French cast. Roxane Mesquida was amazing as the out of control Mimi; her eyes smouldered with contempt in every scene. The chemistry between her and Josephine de La Baume as Djuna was great too, like two cats who just couldn’t get along. I like Milo Ventimiglia as he is easy on the eyes, but his portrayal of Paolo was a tad boring (you must check him out in the 2011 film The Divide. Insane performance!). My favourite character was Xenia, the queen bee vamp. Anna Mouglalis played her with finesse and grace, and showed the conflict Xenia had with what she was and what she wanted to be.
I recommend giving this film a chance. Puzzling, dark and beautiful, The Kiss of the Damned is for those of you who dig homages to European styled art house horror from the ’70’s and ’80’s.
Favourite Scene and Line: The vampire cocktail party. Beautiful apartment and wardrobe with ultra posh guests. It looked like a launch party at a fashion editor’s Manhattan digs. My favourite line comes from this scene as well. After Paolo inquires what a glass of blood-like liquid is, a guest replies, “Whatever it is, it’s the Beluga of politically correct plasma.” Yum, yum, more please!