Jul 11, 2014

Review: Kiss of the Damned (2012)

With the undeniable success of The Twilight Saga film series, seeing other vampire movies try to catch on isn't unexpected. That's maybe a bit unfair to say about Kiss of the Damned because I don't think Xan Cassavetes of the famed Hollywood Cassavetes family has the same aspirations. It was released at the 2013 SXSW Film Festival and later released to probably only a handful of theaters. With a lifetime gross of only $14, 752, I don't think money or mainstream success was the biggest goal here.

Xan Cassavetes has tapped into a more convincing version of vampire folklore than Twilight but that's not something that's especially difficult to do. Vampires prey upon their victims in sexual encounters and burn in the sun as they should! Kiss of the Damned is a more satisfying version of vampires and the so-called vampire community that exists in the film presents an interesting premise.


Genre: drama, horror, romance
Directed by: Xan Cassavetes
Produced by: Adam S. Bersin, Jesse Itzler, Jacob Pechenik, etc.
Written by: Xan Cassavetes
Music by: Steven Hufsteter
Running time: 97 minutes
Production company: Deerjen Films, Verisimilitude, Bersin Pictures, etc.
Distributed by: Magnolia Pictures, Magnet Releasing
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: N/A
Box office: $14,752 (North America)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Joséphine de La Baume, Milo Ventimiglia, Roxane Mesquida, Anna Mouglalis, Michael Rapaport, Riley Keough, Ching Valdes-Aran




Djuna (Josephine de La Baume) is a vampire who lives in a huge house on her own. She only comes out at night to go to the video store or the local bar. She catches the attention of Paulo (Milo Ventimiglia), a movie scriptwriter who makes a series of advances towards her but she rebuffs him. Not wanting to make him a prisoner of her lifestyle, in the end Djuna is unable to resist Paulo's advances and turns him into a vampire so they can be together. Life appears to be pretty sweet until Djuna's sister Mimi (Roxane Mesquida) arrives and is as unstable as they come.



My favourite thing about Kiss of the Damned is just how visually engrossing it is. I'm a sucker for interesting visual displays and Xan Cassavetes has definitely created some impressive stuff. Lighting, colours and camera play are all well showcased. There are also some interesting editing choices with the animal hunting scenes and great use of sound throughout. It's artsy and not for everything but it can be said that KotD is very interesting to look at.

Where things seem to get a bit problematic is when it comes to the dialogue. Josephine de La Baume and Roxane Mesquida are both French actresses which I suppose makes for some charming accents. The thing is, the writing of the dialogue isn't that strong and sounds especially weak when you have two actresses who are speaking it as a second language to each other. It would make more sense anyhow for them to be speaking French to each other since it's the language they're comfortable with. Anna Mouglalis plays another prominent vampire in KotD and is French as well. All the other vampires we meet speak English without any accents, so this is not some sort of weird vampire accent or anything like that. 

Dialogue is also weak at other times, particularly during a vampire get together. Maybe vampires all talk with weird vocabulary but it just sounds extremely unnatural and bizarre. The film features many sex scenes that are stylishly filmed and drawn out which are probably the defining quality of Kiss of the Damned. If lots of sex isn't for you, avert your eyes because there's lots. There are also some interesting music selections which create a pretty cool vibe overall.

Kiss of the Damned is not the best nor the worst vampire movie ever. It falls somewhere in the middle as an extremely stylish flick with uneven dialogue. Xan Cassavetes also uses flashbacks a bit too much as a crutch when it isn't necessary, but I really did enjoy the visual feast that she's created. If you like art house and you like vampires, Kiss of the Damned is probably just right for you.