If director Xan Cassavetes is 100% aware of what kind of movie Kiss Of The Damned is, then I think she’s approaching genius. If not, I thank her anyway because this is one seriously fun, sexy, stupid and gory good time. It reminds me of the 80’s every bit as much as House Of The Devil did, but where that film evoked nostalgia by painstakingly recreating the aesthetics of that decade, Kiss Of The Damned succeeds simply by being one of those movies at heart (despite the fact that it takes place in the present day).
What do I mean by one of “those movies?” I’m talking about the kind of movie you’d pick up at Blockbuster when you were in middle school simply because it had an awesome poster (which, incidentally, this film has as well). You’d get home and pop it in and either be bored to tears or treated to a seriously lurid ride, it could go either way. Kiss Of The Damned takes the latter route, elevating a set-up only a notch or two more complicated than your basic Cinemax outing.
Milo Ventimiglia plays Paolo, a screenwriter who has ensconced himself in a house far away from Hollywood in order to finish what seems like his last stab at writing a commercial screenplay. He’s easily distracted though and, after meeting the beautiful Djuna (Josephine de La Baume) during a night out, he’s inextricably infatuated. Djuna digs Paolo too, but she’s got a rare “blood disorder” that doesn’t allow her to venture our into sunlight. Scarily persistent, Milo keeps courting her until she finally relents and agrees to hook up with him under one condition – she needs to be tied up so she can’t bite him. Needless to say their lovemaking is somewhat acrobatic (despite the bondage) and she’s presented with a fair shot at his neck, which she takes.
In short order, Djuna begins to school Paolo in the ways of the vampire. They try to drink only synthetic or harvested blood and kill only animals (killing humans is strictly forbidden). But that doesn’t mean they live in a prudish culture. Paolo instantly takes a shine to the Euro-glitterati lifestyle that accompanies eternal life. Soon enough, trouble comes in the form of Djuna’s more carnal and violent sister, Mimi (Roxane Mesquida). Mimi doesn’t believe in the whole “not killing people” thing. She’s also not big on being tied down, preferring her three-ways and one night stands anytime and anywhere she can get them.
Mimi’s entrance not only serves to tempt Paolo and endanger cushy bubble that vampire culture has grown accustomed to, it also kicks the film in the rear right as it begins to coast on the enjoyable perversity of its’ first act. Michael Rapaport also makes a welcome cameo as Paolo’s (naturally) coked out agent that provides a nice reminder of the life Paolo was so ready to escape.
If I’m making Kiss Of The Damned out to seem like some thrill-a-minute masterpiece, it’s not. Almost none of its characters or logic could survive even the slightest bit of scrutiny and there’s a mid-film conversation about the place of vampires in society that stops the whole thing cold for at least 5 minutes. Still, it’s good schlocky fun up until (and after) that point. If you’re looking for a stylishly empty, sexy and bloody film – you could do a lot worse.