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  Vampire's Kiss Fangs But No Fangs
Year: 1988
Director: Robert Bierman
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Maria Conchita Alonso, Jennifer Beals, Elizabeth Ashley, Kasi Lemmons, Bob Lujan, Jessica Lundy, Johnny Walker, Boris Leskin, Michael Knowles, John Michael Higgins, Jodie Markell, Marc Coppola, David Hyde Pierce, Amy Stiller
Genre: Horror, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: It was just another evening of womanising for publishing executive Peter Loew (Nicolas Cage), and he picked up Jackie (Kasi Lemmons) in a bar. They were certainly enjoying each others' company, drunkenly goofing around until they got back to his apartment and then things turned amorous. But as they got close, from through the open window flew a bat that needless to say shattered the mood and had Jackie heading for the door clutching her clothes. Peter managed to combat the creature, but as he told his psychiatrist later, he was more turned on by the bat than he was by Jackie - it was safe to say he had problems...

Vampire's Kiss was scripted by Joseph Minion, best known for penning Martin Scorsese's After Hours, and a similar off-kilter sense of humour was at work here. This was not to everyone's taste, because at the heart of it was an utterly bizarre performance from Cage, which was either an example of cracked genius or out of control horrendousness, depending on who you believed. Even his accent was out of the file marked "weirdo" - where was he supposed to be from, anyway? Was it actually an affectation of the character to indicate pretension or the loose screws in his brain?

Director Robert Bierman concentrated on television duties after this failed to set the movie world alight, but it has been recalled by those who saw it since its release, though either fondly as an example of way out horror or as one of the worst movies they have ever had the misfortune to suffer through: there doesn't appear to be much middle ground with this, and Cage is the man to blame for that. Or praise, alternatively. He has always been an idiosyncratic presence even in his crowd pleasing blockbusters, but here was an opportunity to really cut loose and go possibly further over the top than he has since.

Because, yes, this was the movie where Nicolas Cage eats a cockroach - you'll note there's not a sign of a disclaimer that any animals were harmed in the credits, and any other cockroaches reading might care to skip this one to preserve their sensibilities. It really was a live insect he munched on, and maybe it's supposed to make you worry for the sanity of Peter, but it makes you worry for the sanity of the actor as well. That's the odd thing about this film: after Peter is bitten on the neck by supposed vampire Rachel (Jennifer Beals) there's no doubt that he actually isn't now a bloodsucker as the handling is clearly indicating that he is suffering under a serious delusion.

Just as the fantasy version of Rachel (the real one is a possible ex) drains the life out of Peter, Peter victimises his secretary Alva (Maria Conchita Alonso) to make him feel more of a man. It's easy to laugh at his bug-eyed antics when picking on her and harrassing her to find a lost contract, but when he attempts to rape her then you're dealing with humour that is very dark indeed. Alva finally proves Peter's nemesis, though not before he has tried out his new pointy teeth (plastic and bought from a joke shop, naturally) on a hapless club goer. In a sick twist, everyone treats him like the farce of a man we see him as, everyone that is except poor Alva (and her protective brother), and it's true Cage can be very funny. But if Vampire's Kiss is supposed to be a satire of how the yuppie lifestyle could be a kind of psychosis, this is eclipsed by the freakshow of its leading man's behaviour. Music by Colin Towns, which sounds like it's taking all of this seriously.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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