When Felice and Hillary were children, they were separated to live with other people. Felice went off with a relative who possessed an unusual bloodline which was passed on to Felice via a kiss. Now all grown up, Felice is a jet setting model, while Hillary is happily married to husband Jack with a daughter, Amy. One day, Felice calls Hillary and tells her she needs to pass her bloodline onto another relative. When Hillary is killed after the call, Felice slowly makes her way into the family so she can attempt at pass the bloodline onto Amy.
When it comes to horror movies, a nice cuddly title isn’t really suggestive to a larger audience, and such is the problem with The Kiss. It’s an unfortunately misleading title that doesn’t allude to the better workings of the film – the voodoo curse that must possess a new host after so long before the old body dies – and that is perhaps why it has often been passed over on shelves, because for the most part The Kiss is a fun mix of late ‘80s violence with a twist on body-snatching and witchery. The film follows protagonist Amy (Meredith Salenger) after her birthday; she’s the daughter of Hillary, who used to live in the Congo with her father and sister Felice before she was separated from her sister. Now they’re all living in America, trying to have a normal life, until Hillary’s sister Felice (Joanna Pacula) calls with a mysterious message: it’s time for Felice to come back for Amy.
So ensues a new encounter for Amy, whose mom dies soon after in a terrible car accident. Felice comes right in to the rescue, staying in the house for a while, but her presence is a bit creepy. Perhaps it’s her witchy hair, all in snarls and curls every day even though she’s supposedly a model. Or perhaps it’s the way she touches people with a groping hand, especially Amy, who already feels uncomfortable with Felice after her friend is cut up by an escalator.
The Kiss has some surprisingly gruesome moments like the aforementioned scene, and the methods Felice uses to kill her victims are all elaborate, almost beautifully masterminded in their depiction. Amy’s friend is cut by her necklace caught in the turning escalator; a man is boiled to death in an elevator thanks to Felice’s voodoo dolls. The Kiss doesn’t shy away from showing these moments, and for the most part the effects are very well done – and there’s tension in the way the deaths are shot, slow and painful and impossible to avoid.
Pacula plays her part well, too; her accent can become quite menacing, and her sexuality is poignant throughout the film, not just for men but for women as well. There’s something to be said about The Kiss’ focus on sex as a way to bewitch the innocent; it serves as a reminder that one must be careful of how close they let a partner get, at least at first.
But there are those moments where The Kiss dithers away its scares. The cat that Felice uses to attack people is so clearly a puppet that it fails to surprise; chalk this up to the fact that in every shot of the cat, it’s always got its fur standing straight up, with the same snarling face, as though the special effects crew didn’t bother to make a cat puppet that’s not in attack mode.
There’s also the problem with Amy, who can at times be incredibly dense. The final battle between Felice, Amy, her father, and their friend Brenda (Mimi Kuzyk) is good, but it’s elongated so much because of Amy’s ineptitude. The film tries to create tension because Amy might be incinerated in a pool full of chlorine and fire, but it’s a lesson in how not to make a protagonist – she claws her way out of the pool only to fall into it, again and again. Despite plunging a knife into Felice’s neck, a good final girl Amy does not make.
Overall, though, The Kiss is a quality horror film that only sometimes falls into repetitive structures. It has some unique kills, and Joanna Pacula really makes this film shine – her sexy, lusty qualities do well to emphasize just how dangerous she is as a voodoo witch. Though Amy isn’t exactly the most endearing main character, the story surrounding her is entertaining, if not original. It’s a film that’s certainly worth at least a peck on the cheek.
The Kiss (1988)