Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Kiss – review

dvdDirector: Scott Madden

Release date: 2008

Contains spoilers

“And Lucifer created Vampyre and called him Master of Souls, and charged him to spread his demon seed. And lo' the Eight Clans of the Vampyre arose in their time. The Bat, The Wolf, The Scarab, The Fly, The Panther, The Raven, The Snake and The Spider. The Master stole both name and bite from God himself, and finally installed, to rule each clan... a Queen.” So starts The Kiss and – if you go to the homepage of the movie the quote continues on a lore page:

“And like their Queens, their Vampyres would be born of a kiss and all would serve the pain and the darkness and the torment of eternity to live. And so it was that through the ages, each would, on bended knee, beg for the privilege, and lose forever their place in our Lord's heaven.

“"Requiem Por Sanguinaria" Fr. Sebastian Maria Juarez, El Monasterio de la Madre de nuestras almas, Viceroyalty de Peru, 1789”

Robyn Jensen as NastyaThe webpage actually opens up a lot of lore regarding the actual 8 clans and whilst we only meet two of the clans (one ever so fleetingly) I was happy to see such thought going into the back story. It opens us up to a story that is fairly simple and yet devilishly delicious, especially for what is a low budget affair. The film actually starts, in Hell circa 1802, with the Queen of the snake clan, Santa Maria (Lourdes Colon) in her coffin, having been staked by a vampire hunter (Brad Spahn) at the behest of the Queen of the bat clan, Nastya (Robyn Jensen). The hunter buries the coffin as Maria cries for help and Nastya gloats. Critically there are a couple of problems, we only know the clan affiliations through the website and, whilst not important to the main film, we do wonder. Worst was the atrocious Eastern European accent used by Jensen, but it is not heard for long and the clan rivalry does not enter into the main film's plot.

...clearly I remember picking on the boy...Cut to the present day and Jeremy (Lendon LeMelle) is a disaffected teen who seems bullied not only by his classmates but also by his teacher. He has developed a full on Emo attitude to shield himself from teenage life and, given his name, I could not help but think of the song Jeremy by Pearl Jam. The only person that seems to give him any time is Carrie White (Angela Rachelle), but even she is unwilling to be publically friendly and is going out with bully Javier (Michael Galvez).

part of the slow reformationAs Jeremy has walked to and from school we have heard Maria calling to him and it seems centred around one house. When Javier and his friends decide to sort him out, near said house, Javier stands on a nail in a plank of wood and they miss him going into the house – whose door has mysteriously opened. Jeremy follows the voice into a basement area and eventually comes to the place where Maria is buried. He finds the coffin – and a nice touch was it took some time to do so – and opens it. She is a skeletal figure with a stake in her chest (I’ll get back to the stake later). He removes the stake and carries her to a room, placing her on a bed. The sun, through a shutter he opens, burns her and he closes it immediately. She tells him (telepathically) to return when the sun has set. He starts feeding her worms, at first, and then the blood of rats followed by cat and puppy blood. She starts to heal.

not quite healedWhat I did like about the healing process was the fact that it took time. Eventually she seems whole (and rather naked) and rewards him with physical love but – afterwards – we see that her back is still not quite healed. Whilst he slowly heals her she heals him. He becomes less slouched in his posture, less awkward with social graces. Girls in school speak to him and the teacher seems impressed by him. It was a rather nice contrast against her physical healing.

lambs to the slaughterEventually she is so whole again that she can no longer feed upon what he brings to her – indeed the very smell makes her nauseous. The blood of the dead can only sustain her when terribly injured – it is poisonous to her now. During the interplay between the two we have also seen that she can, on occasion, be quite cutting – perhaps a little psycho. She certainly will not entertain him lying to her. She suggests a party so she can meet his friends. He invites the girls he has met, as well as Carrie, Javier and his friends. However, for Maria, the guests are less invited friends and more on the menu…

Lourdes Colon as Santa MariaAs I mentioned, the story is simple. Boy raises older (and rather beautiful) woman from the grave, we get their developing relationship and then she tries to eat his friends. It is not the depth of story that makes this – more it is the writing and the acting that builds the characters. Lendon LeMelle does a fine job as Jeremy – perhaps sometimes his youth comes across but it fits with the character.

sarcasm after dinnerLourdes Colon shines. She is both attractive and funny. The film is billed as a comedy and it is – though the humour is both dark and low key, it is centred firmly on her character. Her little asides, and little looks, whilst hunting the teens are just fantastic and make the film. The supporting cast are surprisingly strong for a film that is rather low budget. The lore is sparse (on screen) but we get some.

ornate coffin lidI have mentioned sunlight and the types of blood needed. Her coffin seems unimportant (in that she doesn't have to sleep in it) - however the ornate lid does contain imagery pertaining to the clans. Later we discover that the vampire normally feeds in seasons. The bite (of the snake clan at least) contains a venom that will paralyse a victim. A stake to the heart will kill but the slayer who got Maria (and who was then killed for his trouble) did not know his anatomy and missed the heart. Whilst she was terribly injured she was not dead. I took this to be a nice little side swipe at all the vampire movies where the position of the heart seems to be a moveable feast.

snake clan huntsWe get a lot of guests at the party (giving Jeremy's friends an illusion of a real party) and they were summoned by Maria – she claims they are ghosts. She managed to keep the houses built above her resting place clear of occupants through earthquakes, fires and snakes. I liked this if, for no other reason, I had actually wondered about the ownership of the house above her and why she treated it like her own – many films wouldn’t have bothered answering the question. We also see that she can be in two places at once, somehow, as she watches herself lead a girl away. She has a traditional two fang set up often but this is not how she feeds.

top and bottom fangsWhen she bites for real she develops a top and bottom fang set up and her bites are rather vicious. She wears an Ouroboros tattoo on that small of her back but she also tells Jeremy that she hates tattoos. This was put on her by the “Master of her Soul”, it is his brand and chains her to him. This is the king of all vampires – whom we do not meet but who is detailed in the lore on the webpage. She is able to influence minds from a distance in order that she might defend Jeremy.

this effect was too rubberyThere are problems – but they are low key in the scheme of things. I felt that the sound levels were a little inconsistent – however it was not as bad as many low budget films by a long stretch and that was a very minor annoyance. There was also a scene with a lot of fangs in a monstrous mouth that looked a bit rubbish and rubber. Given that most of the effects were really quite nicely done, with some intelligent shots that played them to their strengths, this was a shame – but it was a very short scene.

All told every quibble is minor. The film does well with what it has got and plays it strengths really well indeed. I like discovering good new vampire films and when it is a film of low budget that proves superior to some of the high budget pieces it is most satisfying indeed. 6.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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