Review: Kiss of the Damned / Cert: 18 / Director: Xan Cassavetes / Screenplay: Xan Cassavetes / Starring: Josephine de la Baume, Roxane Mesquida, Milo Ventimiglia, Anna Mouglalis, Michael Rappaport / Release Date: January 27th, 2014
Kiss of the Damned is the first feature film from Xan Cassavetes, daughter of Hollywood legend John, following her 2006 documentary, Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession. Here we have a vampire movie that harks back to the Gothic romances of yesteryear; stylish tension, splatter and sex are the orders of the day.
The story of Kiss of the Damned revolves around Djuna (de la Baume) and Paolo (Ventimiglia). Djuna is a vampire who does her best to resist the sexual advances of Paolo, knowing that she can’t allow him to get too close for fear of her urges getting the better of her. With some assurance from Paolo that he’s ready for what’s to come, Djuna gives into her deepest instincts and leaves her beau with a love bite that’s sure to sting. As a result, Paolo becomes a vampire and the pair plan to see out immortality together. Being the well-meaning, none-threatening vamps that they are, they also look to assuage their baser instincts by harvesting blood from animals rather than attacking humans. Surely that’s worth some brownie points, right?
As ever, the couple’s bliss cannot last forever, and their world is brought to a standstill by the arrival of Djuna’s sexually charged (isn’t everyone in this movie?) sister, Mimi (Mesquida). Mimi doesn’t have quite the same morals as her sister; she's happy to feed her bloodlust anyway that she can. As the greater vampire community becomes part of the fold, Mimi looks to drive a wedge between Djuna and her ‘one true.’
Kiss of the Damned delivers a vampire tale that is something unique and different in this world of Twilight and True Blood. There’s a style and vibe to the film that is similar to, in more modern fare, Stoker, but that also draws on the glossy, rich textures of European filmmakers such as Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci. Cassavetes' movie may not be quite up to the standard of the films it is inspired by, but it has a damn good go of delivering something in a similar vein.
The performances are fine for what they are, with Anna Mouglalis and Michael Rappaport stealing scenes at any given opportunity. Adding to the experience that Cassavetes is offering to her audience, we get treated to an absolutely stunning soundtrack that sounds like an amalgamation of Ennio Morricone, American Prayer-era Doors and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Quite the combination.
If you like your vampire films to have a brooding, sinister, Gothic charm – not to mention lots of hot, panty sex – Kiss of the Damned is well worth hunting down.