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  Kiss of the Damned To Die, To Be Really Dead, That Must Be Glorious
Year: 2012
Director: Xan Cassavetes
Stars: Joséphine de La Baume, Milo Ventimiglia, Roxane Mesquida, Anna Mouglalis, Michael Rappaport, Riley Keough, Ching Valdes-Aran, Juan Luis Acavedo, Jay Brannan, Jonathan Caouette, Tiarnie Coupland, Megumi Haggerty, Caitlin Keats, Haley Kotch, Victor Kubicek
Genre: Horror, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Djuna (Joséphine de La Baume) leads a lonely existence as a translator of books into various languages who cannot leave her isolated American mansion during the hours of daylight thanks to a rare condition she suffers. She does visit the nearby video rentals store regularly, however, as movies help salve her despairing state of mind, and while she is there one night she catches sight of a young man wandering the aisles who she is inexplicably drawn to. He is Paolo (Milo Ventimiglia), a screenwriter who has moved out here temporarily to work on a script in peace, and they get to talking; before they know it, one thing has led to another, but Djuna orders him away...

And the reason for that is her condition, which you may or may not have guessed by now is vampirism, and that's what keeps her away from other people, and other vampires for that matter. Will the love of a good man thaw her heart? This was the fiction feature debut of bona fide movie star and indie pioneer John Cassavetes' daughter, Xan Cassavetes, after her well-received documentary on the Z Channel from a few years before, and some saw it as her answer to the Twilight series. As far as she was concerned, there was nothing wrong with that franchise so she was not the detractor many assumed, it's just that she thought they were films for children.

Kiss of the Damned then was for adults, which in practice led to a bunch of sex scenes between the bloodsuckers, yet all very tastefully done, i.e. you didn't see very much thanks to the discreet camera angles Cassavetes chose. It was plainly an homage to a more European style of horror from a few decades before, the sort of thing which was a degree less coy but could be very stylish indeed, Daughters of Darkness, The Blood Spattered Bride, the work of Jean Rollin, you know the territory, and it was clear frame by frame, shot by shot that the director had studied her art and influences with great care and attention, working up that sleekness on a low budget which distinguished the movies she was citing.

However, in practice this didn't quite measure up to that curiously difficult to replicate atmosphere and look of those cult favourites, and resembled more those nineties straight to video "erotic" efforts which cluttered the top shelves of many a store across the globe, Meridian and that kind of production. Except this was given the full widescreen treatment and a release in cinemas, and at least was a shade more glossy and enjoyed the patronage of a classier cast, with de La Baume our heroine who finds a sisterly rivalry with younger sibling Mimi, played by cult French actress Roxane Mesquida (actually older than Joséphine in real life, but well-preserved), and another vampire was essayed by husky-voiced model Anna Mouglalis for a few scenes as we see Djuna socialise, the vampires a patrician bunch in denial about the violence which goes hand in hand with their survival.

What plot there was, and there wasn't a tremendous amount, revolved around a love triangle between the regretful, not happy about being one of the undead Djuna, new beau Paolo who gladly is turned into one of her kind after about ten minutes of screen time (fast mover), and Mimi, who wants him for herself and is keen to cut down a swathe of humanity if it means her appetites are sated. Some described Kiss of the Damned as reminiscent of The Hunger, and it was true there was an element of that style over substance to it, mainly because substance was thin on the ground, with vague moves towards exploring "otherness" co-existing with normal society not going much further than many other vampire flicks, though avoiding pretensions for the most part. That said, a few pretensions might have made it more distinctive as after a while it became an invitation to admire the pretty pictures Cassavetes could dream up for her characters, even if it did grow bloody enough during the shock scenes to live up to its ambitions. For a bit. Authentic-sounding music by Steven Hufsteter.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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