‘Kiss of the Damned’ is damned good

Joséphine de La Baume bares her fangs in 'Kiss of the Damned'
Joséphine de La Baume bares her fangs in ‘Kiss of the Damned’

Kiss of the Damned is one of those films that came very close to earning a rating of four.  It deserves extra consideration simply for the fact that the vampires in the movie don’t glow in the sunlight.  They do something far more “normal”, if that word can be used to describe portrayals of these fictional creatures; when they encounter sunlight.

“Djuna” (de La Baume) is a vampire who has never known deep, intense love for a man until she encounters “Paolo” (Ventimiglia) in a video store.  She reveals what she is to him in short order and he gives up his humanity willingly in order to spend eternity with his beloved.  It is a seductive lifestyle after all, given the power, wealth and grandeur of Djuna’s existence.  She and other vampires, “led” by matriarch “Xenia” (Mouglalis) refrain from hunting humans, preferring artificial blood.

Josephine de La Baume and Milo Ventimiglia in 'Kiss of the Damned
Josephine de La Baume and Milo Ventimiglia in ‘Kiss of the Damned

But then Djuna’s sister “Mimi” (Mesquida) comes to visit (how they are ‘sisters’ is never explained).  She moves into the house owned by Xenia where Djuna and Paolo are living.  She hunts, she has lots of sex and calling her extremely hedonistic is understatement in its finest form.  Djuna wants Xenia to send Mimi on to her intended destination in Arizona, but Xenia won’t do it.  The question is, will Mimi’s insatiable appetites ruin the lives of the rest of the vampires, especially Djuna and Paolo.

As debut features go (Cassavettes did make a wonderful documentary about “Z Channel”, which I miss dearly), this is an excellent beginning.  The two actresses portraying the vampire sisters do so with strong sexuality that doesn’t reduce the other qualities that make them so joyful to watch.    While there is plenty of sex on display, it is neither gratuitous nor gross.  It is beautiful, as are the vampires and their surroundings.  They live well, they dress well and the costuming and production design are exceptional.

'Paolo" after "Djuna" has put the 'bite' on him in 'Kiss of the Damned'
‘Paolo” after “Djuna” has put the ‘bite’ on him in ‘Kiss of the Damned’

When asked why it was important to make a “different” vampire film, Cassavettes said “…the most important thing in making a film is that you have an idea and you become obsessed with it.  That obsession makes you do crazy things to get that film made.”   Mesquida     and de La Baume talked about feeling a sisterly bond almost immediately.  Mesquida said “at first when I heard she knew my ex-boyfriend, I was worried. But then we talked and talked and it was wonderful.”

That’s a great word to use to describe this film, atypical of the vampire fare we’ve seen in recent years.  It is seductive, sensual and superb.  See it.

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