Friday, August 02, 2013

Kiss of the Damned – review

Director: Xan Cassavetes

Release date: 2012

Contains spoilers

There is a huge dose of Euro-horror with this US film, from the stylistic original movie poster (which I have used on this review rather than the DVD artwork) all the way to the tone and photography it is clear that Cassavetes had a vision and kudos for following it.

The film itself, well I enjoyed it and it is beautifully shot but it is ponderous rather than plotted as we shall see.

Joséphine de La Baume as Djuna
The film begins with whispers, but they are from a film watched by Djuna (Joséphine de La Baume), this opening is also interspersed with movement through the forest, then a splash of blood. In the morning, when the housekeeper arrives, we see blood on the tiled floor, which is cleaned immediately. We hear a telephone call taken and the housekeeper saying the Djuna is unavailable.

Milo Ventimiglia as Paolo
When she awakens, to a breakfast tray, there is a note letting her know that the video shop called about returning her rentals. When in the shop Djuna sees a man, Paolo (Milo Ventimiglia), and there seems to be a connection. But she hurries from the store. Outside the rain beats down and she stands below the shop’s awning. Paolo comes out and speaks to her and they end up having a drink and then back at hers. However, as the passion builds, she sends him away.

vampirism revealed
He is haunted by her, he tries calling her and leaving messages. He goes back to the house and she speaks to him with the door chain preventing his entrance. They kiss through the gap of the doorway but she bites his tongue (and a fair bit of blood is lost) and she sends him away again. He goes back a third time and enters the house. She tells him what she is but he doesn’t believe her and so she takes him to her bedroom and has him chain her. As he kisses her she vamps out and so he unchains her. In a rather erotically shot and sensuous scene she feeds as she rides him.

Paolo bitten
When he next awakes he too is a vampire. She explains that he will not age or grow ill but (direct) sunlight, beheading and immolation will kill him. The house is owned by Xenia (Anna Mouglalis), a vampire matriarch, and Djuna stays as her guest. Djuna feeds on animals and she explains that the hunger begins as a pressure at the small of the back, which builds. She is fearful of any kill (even an animal) returning and later we discover how much self-control a vampire has to exert to not kill and that virgin’s blood is most tempting. In a kick at True Blood comment is made about synthetic blood (which they have) but what the likely human reaction would be if they 'came out', the synthetic blood notwithstanding.

Mimi feeds
The new lovers' idyllic affair is shattered when Djuna’s sister, Mimi (Roxane Mesquida), appears. She has been placed at the house for a week by Xenia as they wait for “vampire re-hab” to be available for her. Mimi is off the rails – and Djuna is not heard as she tries to warn Xenia. Indulging in human feeds, leaving them to turn (according to Djuna, we see no real evidence of this) and sexually promiscuous we watch her machinations and Djuna’s anxiety.

a victim
However there is no big over-arching plot. They just are what they are and we watch their lives unravel, Mimi an unwilling mirror of Djuna’s darkest desires and a first class manipulator. It is within this that, perhaps, the weakness of the film is revealed in that it seemed that we were more a fly on the wall, voyeuristic watchers of a train wreck of two lives, rather than witnesses to a complex drama. However, what a wall; lush, decadent and beautifully shot, both the photography and acting draws the viewer into the film and keeps us there.

6.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


LoBo said...

Too bad you didn't like it more. I hope i will enjoy when i see it. I have this Blu-ray with poster as the cover:

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Lobo, don't get me wrong... I thought it was a beautiful and well acted film... I just craved a bit more in the story, but much better than a lot of indies and I'm sure you will enjoy it.

Re the cover, it is the dvd that has a different cover but whilst I can play multi-region dvd, I am currently region locked for blu-ray

Anyhoo, really good to hear from you :)

LoBo said...

I see.

I have a Region-free player. It is a must for me. Most of my collection (421 BDs) are from the US.

I will see Near Dark for the first time next week on Blu-ray. I will let you know what i think of it.

Yes, good to talk to you too.

Margaret Schalliol said...

I finally got a chance to see this. I seem to have enjoyed it much more than you did. If style counts for anything (and it actually counts for quite a lot in my book) this film has it in spades. I've not seen a vampire film that was quite as sumptuous in its cinematography, music, and pacing as this film since The Hunger. In fact, there is a similar tone between those two films, I'd say, it was also reminiscent of some classic 70s euro horror as well. There may not have been much of a plot to speak of, but it does delve into the various natures of the characters. A fun watch that I really enjoyed!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hey Margaret, glad you enjoyed it. I agree that style and characterisation mean much (sometimes all). You are right in terms of the fact that its loose plot was reminiscent of some Euro-horror.

For me, unfortunately, I just couldn't help thinking that this particular film needed more in the plot... However this is the brilliant subjective nature of film appreciation.

I think that you, lobo and I do agree that this is a worthwhile film and addition to the genre, but in matters of degree. Unfortunately I am the lower end of that scale.

Vladkergan said...

I fell the same watching it few weeks ago : good acting and good directing, but the plot lacks in originality.

Bill D. Courtney said...

I started th9s last night and will finish it in a bit, but I liked it. It pays sweet homage to the old, stylistic Euro-vamp flicks of the 70's. I like the score and the even the font used for the title. It is a bit ponderous and drags but so did most of those old Euro-shockers. This John Cassavetes' here and she does well.


Alex said...

Didn't think it was to bad.
My only complaint is that the plot should've been more cohesive. The demise of the evil sister was fairly random and her killings never had any consequences. None of the victims reaniamted and their disappearances were never investigated.
But visually it looked great, especially the erotic scenes. Almost had Jean Rollin feel to it.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Alex - fair points and it was probably that which made me feel we were just flies on a wall with no great overarching plot... But the feel was great :)

LoBo said...

I didn't enjoy this film. Not much interesting happend in this film. I thought the pace was too slow. I was bored.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Lobo, that'll be th lack of overarching story - I still think it looked wonderful and had a nive Euro-horror-like atmosphere