If you know me – at all – you know Vampires are what I live, breathe and bleed. So when I hear of two indy vampire films being made and released in the early part of this year that take the subject matter seriously I get interested. Neil Jordan’s Byzantium and Xan Cassavetes Kiss of the Damned, two films barely released within the US market. Why? They weren’t marketable to what american audiences are asking for. While I have not gotten my hands on a copy of Byzantium; I was lucky enough to find Kiss of the Damned on Netflix.
Writer/Director Xan (Alexandra) Cassavetes, clearly has a similar passion to mine on the subject of vampires. While I am loathe to admit it, I can see some inspiration in her work from the Twilight films; however where the vampires there were fangless, bloodless and nearly sexless, Xan’s vampires are the complete opposite. They are erotic in a way we have not seen since the late sixties and early seventies vampire films now plied with modern sensibilities. Though I did say she may have taken some inspiration from Twilight, as there appears to be a nod or two in the direction of Forks in some of the dialogue, it is also evident she loves the pulpy, sexy, Vampire films that all but ended after The Hunger.
Kiss of the Damned brings those 70’s erotic horror styles and melds them with strong european (mostly french) film styles of the current era. The Vampires here are sexy, they are vulnerable and they do love their blood. These stylistic choices are definitely not for all audiences, which can and do often slow the pacing to a crawl and bring imagery that goes too heavily into the abstract art than clear visual film presentations.
The story you ask? It’s a love story (of course) in which succesful screen writer Paolo (Heroes Milo Ventigmilia) encounters the enigmatic beauty Djuna (Joséphine de La Baume – you’ve never seen her in anything, I promise). It’s love at first sight, followed by first bite as the movie waste little time in having the lovely Djuna turn her paramour. The rest of the film deals with his entry into the world of vampires and the appearance of Mimi, Djuna’s gothic lolita sister. Mimi’s presence seeks to turn Djuna and Paolo’s, much less the local vampire communities world upside down.
The acting was everything I expected from a foreign film, subdued, nuanced and elegant. Stylistically it’s a world I think I would like to escape to given the opportunity and I rank it up there with the great gothic vampire films mentioned earlier. There are also some interesting sound choices for the music that some audiophiles will be intrigued by. Cinematically, however, as I mentioned the film veers into art more than story telling a few times and while sometimes appropriate it can be distracting. It does not skip on the gore and the make up work is above par for what we get these days.
So for the TL;DR crowd, the part you’ve been waiting for.
If you are a vampire phile like me , this one is not to be missed.
If you like erotic and or romantic horror, check it out.
Otherwise, sadly, the studios were right, this one is not for the mass market. A shame that as I truly did enjoy the first real vampire film I’ve seen in quite some time.
Hint for tomorrows review – Is that gasoline I smell?