In this sultry, erotic tale from Xan Cassavetes, Djuna (Josephine de la Baume) is a vampire living a reclusive, but happy life in her palatial house in the woods. Her housemaid looks after everything in the morning and during the evening, she watches old movies and translates documents. During a visit to town to return some videotapes, she meets, and falls passionately in love with, Paolo (Milo Ventimiglia); a screenwriter visiting the area to finish his latest project. After a whirlwind romance, things begin to deteriorate when Djuna’s rebellious sister, Mimi (Roxane Mesquida) comes to stay.
Stylistically, Kiss of the Damned is touch above the rest. With its over-synthesized soundtrack and Argento cinematography, it clearly has its feet in the euro-horrors of the 60s and 70s. With the exception of Mimi – who bloodlets like she’s doing shots – the film is not concerned with violence. It’s about addiction and the allure of vampirism. The sex appeal of it all. The sex scenes in question are tastefully shot. And not just about the main cast being given ample time to disrobe and rub up against each other whilst flashing their pointy teeth.
There’s also some wonderful upturning of vampire lore. They don’t hang around in castles or sparkle in the sunlight. They have jobs and bills to pay. At a vampire soiree, we bear witness to a group of fanged fiends discussing the human situation with all the passion of your drunk father talking about the troubles in Afghanistan at Christmas, i.e. with inflated dullness. No wonder Mimi is so hell-bent on shaking things up.
Unfortunately, Kiss of the Damned struggles to fill its 90 minute running time. Scenes run by with next to no consequence and at times you can almost hear the wheels spinning. There’s also the slight problem with Mesquida’s performance which drags down every scene she’s in; coming across as a spoilt child who has spat out her dummy. When Paolo begins to eye her up, you struggle to wonder why exactly.
Dark and moody, Kiss of the Damned will certainly appeal to those who want their Vampires having graduated high school. However, it’s just missing that extra bite to make it all the more worthwhile.