March 28, 2013 (VOD); May 3, 2013 (theatrical)
Josephine de La Baume as Djuana
Roxanne Mesquida as Mimi
Milo Ventimiglia as Paulo
Anna Moughlalis as the Alpha
Elitist and averse to killing – this group of mainly female vampires takes greater pleasure in the trappings of civilization and philosophical discussions than hunting mortals, which is kept to a minimum. Instead they gorge on deer and drink from hospital blood reserves in between conversations about politics and art. Yet, a more solitary member of the group – Djuana – gives into her more carnal nature when she meets Paulo. She turns him into the undead, but only to love him as an equal for all eternity. However once her sister, Mimi, shows up, Djuana’s newly-created fairy tale existence comes to a shrieking halt. Unlike Djuana, Mimi takes pleasure in killing and mating with anyone she pleases. Friction between the two begins to spill over to other members of the group as the insatiable Mimi can’t seem to control any of her urges.
This is a unique film – a cross between Daughters of Darkness (1970) and Interview with a Vampire (1994) with the tone and atmosphere of a euro-trash witches’ coven mixed in for good measure. It will not appeal to everyone. For one, it’s a slow-burn to start and doesn’t quicken a great deal even during the kill scenes which although more artistic than graphic, don’t shy away from blood. To complicate matters further, there are no scares.
Yet there is a disturbing theme that will likely appeal more to female fans of the genre. Kiss of the Damned is rife with metaphor for the issues faced by modern women both in the context of love, sisterhood and place in society. At a broader level, Mimi represents the animal in all of us – yearning to escape the moral constraints of civilization, yet she exists in a world of alpha females where the men are weak and dominated. Paulo represents the sexually driven male who succumbs to a life with Djuana strictly on her terms (that of a vampire). Yet he strays when the more uninhibited Mimi easily seduces him. He is more a tool than a character – a tool the sisters use against each other, but not so much the source of their division – just the latest iteration of it. Within this context, Djuana deals with her love of Paulo – based on primal attraction and her own suppressed desires to escape the very strict confines of the society vampire. On the whole, Djuana represents the sophisticated professional woman who constantly suppresses more basicbiological urges and even when she succumbs to them, tries to find a way to fit the object of them into her sophisticated and professional life (i.e. the working mother), because she ultimately finds the choice between the two impossible.
In terms of vampire lore, Director Cassavetes brings back the vampire-lite world – first portrayed in daughters of darkness. These vampires eat and enjoy wine like the rest of us except they can only enjoy such luxuries at night. They live forever, but have the urge to kill and feast on the blood of the living (much like the carnal bloodlust running through everyone’s veins) and must satisfy that urge or it becomes uncontrollable. Otherwise, the only thing that distinguishes them from humans is the traditional allergy to sunlight – which along with beheading is the only thing that will kill them.
The soundtrack mixes works from the great masters (e.g. Chopin) with new age melodies. The story is character-driven in the spirit of most love triangles and relies on first-rate acting, though Roxanne Mesquida tends to overplay the Mimi character at times. The theme is deep and compelling with precisely timed kill scenes serving as appendages to an artistically beautiful production – visually and emotionally. Kiss of the Damned would have received 3 ½ Freak Heads based on these exceptional qualities (even without scares), but only gets an average score due to a contrived ending that is worse than predictable – relying instead on lucky coincidence to solve everybody’s problems at just the right time.
Bottom line: This is a cocktail vampire movie meant mostly for women. There are no scares, but its rich metaphor, character friction and rather artistic kill scenes will delight many.