I am doing the 31 Days of Horror Challenge. Every day in October, I will watch a different horror film I have never seen before and write about it here on the blog.
There really is not much to say about a movie like Kiss of the Damned. As an homage to the Euro-horror films of the ’70s—specifically the vampire films directed by Jean Rollin and Jess Franco—it accomplishes exactly what writer/director Xan Cassavetes sets out to do. But like the films it is inspired by, it’s not much more than an empty exercise in mood and atmosphere.
Djuna (Joséphine de La Baume) is a beautiful vampire living in a mansion on a remote Connecticut estate. When she meets handsome screenwriter Paolo (Milo Ventimiglia), it’s love at first sight for both of them. But Djuna resists at first. It seems that she is part of a society of vampires who only feed off animals in an effort to create their own civilization. When Djuna becomes sexually aroused, she loses control and tries to bite her lovers. But in a first act that moves at warp speed to get all the characters in place, she reveals her secret to Paolo who allows her to turn him without a second thought.
At first, the couple settles in to live happily ever after. But then trouble arrives in the form of Mimi (Roxane Mesquida), Djuna’s wild-child younger sister. Mimi has no problem killing humans and sets about being the fly in the ointment, not just for Djuna and Paolo, but also for the entire “civilized” vampire society.
Kiss of the Damned is all surface gloss and revels in that fact. Cassavetes casts mostly Europeans as her vampires and most of them seem to be reciting their lines phonetically. Even the actors who do speak English deliver their wooden dialogue in a stilted manner. This is all in keeping with the aforementioned Euro-horror films that Cassavetes is so slavishly recreating.
Of course, also in keeping with that very narrow agenda, the film is largely without plot, the characters act without motivation, and sex scenes are numerous while scares are largely nonexistent. But the film also nails the dreamy tone of those films through lovely cinematography and a terrific score.
But I still can’t shake the feeling that an exercise in replication is an empty one. The main flaws of the Euro-horror films that Cassavetes is aping are a lack of logic and dramatic inertia. Unfortunately, Kiss of the Damned has those same problems. Some people die, some fall in love, and the whole thing just comes to a conclusion without any real ending. For a vampire film, it’s lacking in passion and largely bloodless.
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