Boy meets vampire-girl, they fall in love, they have sex and vampire’s mischief-making sister tries to mess up this perfect love. Director Xan Cassavetes can make a pretty film, but she should not have trusted herself to write the story. The screenplay is cliched and simplistic melodrama that drags even if the images and some of the operatic music quotes are lush. Rating: 0 (-4 to +4) or 4/10.
Director John Cassavetes and his wife Gena Rowlands made subtle and incisive films with well-developed characters and naturalistic backgrounds. In 2004, their daughter made a genuine film-lover’s documentary, ‘Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession’. Somehow her second feature film, ‘Kiss Of The Damned’, is just about the antithesis of the sort of film Xan Cassavetes’ parents would have made. This is a vampire film with a lot of polish but almost no characters of any depth at all. Cassavetes gives us a glossy but empty film in the unkillable vampire film genre, but in fact for most of the film the vampirism is almost irrelevant. The film is just pretty people parading in a pretty environment telling a nearly empty or at least very rudimentary story.
Djuna (played by Josephine de La Baume) is a vampire who lives in a very fancy house where she likes watching old movies. She meets a handsome young man, Paolo (Milo Ventimiglia) and, while it is clear there is chemistry between them, she knows it is not good for him to want a relationship with a vampire. (‘I have a skin condition,’ she tells him.) She admits to Paolo she is a vampire who does not believe her. (‘Are you kidding me?’) She tries to resist him, but their attraction is too strong. She wants to show Paolo what she is without danger to him and has herself chained in brief underwear to her bed to restrain herself from biting while she makes love to Paolo. In spite of her warnings, he takes the chains off and willingly lets her bite making him a vampire. They then they enjoy all the pleasures of being vampires in love with both sex and neck-hunting.
Then Djuna’s evil vampire sister Mimi (Roxane Mesquida) arrives at the family house and insists on being allowed to stay. It is clear that she wants to do as much mischief-making as she can. Mimi goes about trying to cause trouble for Djuna’s stylish patrician friends. They drink artificial blood, but Mimi goes on a killing spree to feed her blood thirst. She kills several people, including Paolo’s agent, but while people disappear nobody ever seems to come to investigate. There is, of course, trouble but in the end it all comes to a happy if totally out-of-nowhere ending. This script is so unimaginative it could have come from a high-schooler’s imagination.
Cassavetes uses lush photography and costuming to underscore the aristocratic style of the clique of vampires. Some scenes even have beautiful opera music to add to the lush feel and there is occasional soft-core porn. Cassavetes is doing what he can for a script so simplistic that it could have been written by a high school girl.
Actually, there was one arresting thought in the film. When Djuna transforms to a vampire with fangs and is making love to Paolo she warns him to keep his hands away from her mouth. She can make love to him but if he gets too close to her mouth it will kill on its own like the hands of Orlak. It is just a fleeting moment, but it is the only unusual idea in the script. It does not make the film worth watching. I rate ‘Kiss Of The Damned’ a 0 on the -4 to +4 scale or 4/10.
Mark R. Leeper
© Mark R. Leeper 2013