US | 2012 | Directed by Xan Cassavetes
Logline: A female vampire turns a male mortal as they embark on a love affair, only to have their romance disturbed with the arrival of the woman’s jealous vampire sister.
Vampire movies are a dime a dozen, these days probably not far behind zombie and found footage flicks. So it is with an undead weary and fang wary eye that I approach yet another bite on vampire lore. But don’t get me wrong, I’m always up for one that gets the balance fresh, offering something curious, atmospheric, creepy, sensual, sexy, brutal, nightmarish, or a tasty combo!
Kiss Of The Damned is the best vampire movie since Let The Right One In (2008). It’s an American production with a European edge. Set in Connecticut and Manhattan, it’s a love story that appears to head toward a certain dawn, only to finish, most satisfyingly, at another.
Striking strawberry blonde Djuna (Joséphine de La Baume) lives in a huge white mansion with her maid Irene (Ching Valdes-Iran) making periodic visits. She feeds on the blood of animals, and is part of a community of modern vampires that do not dine on humans, and prefer to keep it that way. Lonely Djuna is drifting around the local video store when she catches the eye of a handsome bearded fellow (Milo Ventimiglia). She feels the tug, and swiftly leaves the store, but it is raining so heavily she is forced to stare into the void … “My name’s Paulo.”
Before you can say “Nosferatu, a symphony of horror” they are back at her pad, but Djuna is resisting Paulo’s advances. She gets him back onto the porch, and they finally kiss passionately, awkwardly, and Djuna bites his tongue. She slams the door shut. But Paulo will return. That’s certain.
Enter dark Mimi (Roxane Mesquida), Djuna’s hedonistic, reckless, and sly sister. She arrives unannounced, intending to stay for a week. There is no love lost between the sisters. Mimi is an old school vampire: manipulative and predatory. She has an agenda, and she is driven like the snow. There won’t just be tears spilled before bedtime …
Here’s another from the clutch of talented daughters of famous male American directors, Alexandra “Xan” Cassavetes, on her debut feature, having previously made the documentary Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession (about early cable television), and it’s obvious she’s inherited an eye for provocative cinema. Kiss Of The Damned takes inspiration from lush cult faves, such as Daughters of Darkness (1974) and The Hunger (1983), adds a Brian De Palma-esque erotic thriller vibe to the look and feel, and yet maintains a distinct female sensibility.
Great performances from all involved, especially Roxane Mesquida who nails the femme fatale role, but also Joséphine de La Baume and Anna Mouglalis as vamp artiste Xenia (despite their thick French accents, and knowing English is not their first language). Combined with stylish cinematography, a pulsating score, ardent sex – especially the first one between Djuna and Paulo – and some solid effects work entwine to make Kiss Of The Damned a throbbing hot affair of the dangerous undead heart.
Kiss Of The Damned screens as part of Monster Fest, tonight, Sunday, December 1st, 7.30pm, at Cinema Nova.