The vampire Djuna resists the advances of Paolo, but soon gives in to their passion. When her trouble-making sister unexpectedly comes to visit, Djuna’s love is threatened, and the whole vampire community becomes endangered.
It is clear sometimes when watching a film that it will divide audiences. I don’t mean in a simplistic way between just liking or disliking the production, but genuinely feeling that you have just watched a great film while the person next to you just didn’t buy into it at all. For me Kiss Of The Damned is potentially one such film.
The story is a very simple one. A beautiful vampire Djuna (Josephine de la Baume) lives an almost hermit-like existence in a sprawling mansion slightly outside of the city. By day she sleeps but by night works as a literary translator in between visits to the local video rental store. On one such visit she meets the handsome Paulo (Milo Ventimiglia), another lost soul who has been sent to the city by his agent to finish a screenplay away from any distractions. Immediately there is a obvious, deep rooted emotional connection between the two and late that evening they return to Djuna’s home. As their passion begins to rise she reluctantly throws him out for his own safety.
Unable to forget her Paulo calls the following night and during a kiss Djuna accidently bites him. Confused, slightly afraid, but even more intoxicated than ever Paulo returns again and forces his way in. After confessing her secret Djuna reveals her true self while chained to the bed. Desperate to spend his life with her Paulo releases her and having been bitten joins Djuna in immortal life.
The happiness of their love story is interrupted by the arrival of Djuna’s reckless, unpredictable and violent sister Mimi (Roxane Mesquida) who proceeds to ignore her siblings wishes and who’s actions threaten the outwardly peaceful vampire community.
Firstly some points on the vampire legend and certain differences within Kiss Of The Damned. As with another recent vampire based film the characters here are “vegetarian” in the main, preferring to feast upon animals or synthetic blood rather than humans, although they all struggle both successfully and unsuccessfully with this lifestyle choice. Mimi for one blatantly flaunts this rule, killing and attacking wantonly. There is a wonderful scene at a party where the main topic of discussion is the highly civilized vampire community in relation to humanity itself. This film is a portrayal of a world where the vampires understand the morality and rules surrounding their existence and appreciate the necessity to abide by these restrictions. It is at this party that the “beluga of politically correct plasma” is served, a wonderfully observed scene.
Secondly, and importantly, Kiss Of The Damned does not shy away from the inherent brutality. Vampires, despite being civilised, are portrayed as flawed creatures who struggle with their own demons and when they are shown in their true forms the violence is appropriate and extreme leaving the audience in no doubt as to their inner nature and creating a paradox of empathy for the main characters. It would be wrong to give too much away as I relished the fact I did not know where the story was going as the threat to the community grew but the growing tension is palpable.
It would be lazy to compare this to Twilight and review it simply as an adult version of the vampire love story but that franchise does linger in the back of your mind for a time. Where Kiss Of The Damned pulls away is in the artistic direction and cinematography. Simply put, this is a beautiful film full of gothic, darkly dramatic eroticism set against raw, animalistic aggression and writer / director Xan Cassavetes has crafted a beautiful and terrifying world that draws you in completely.
Referring back to the divisive element of the film I appreciate that many people prefer their vampires to be wholly evil, possibly as a backlash to the many recent love themed tales but that doesn’t mean that every story should be ignored when dealing with these ideas. There are too many imitators in every genre but fortunately for all of us there are still filmmakers like Cassavetes with the vision and strength to follow their convictions and the style and creativity to produce films of this standard. Kiss Of The Damned is a strikingly beautiful film that deserves as great an audience as possible and I would recommend it to everyone.
Kiss of The Damned is now available on bluray per Magnolia Entertainment
Kiss of The Damned (2012)