Friday, March 14, 2014

Kiss of the Damned (2012): Sexy Vampire Women, updated

Kiss of the Damned (2012)
dir: Xan Cassavetes

From the 1960s and into the 1970s, there was a whole genre of erotic vampire movies, with a fair amount from Jess Franco, director of Venus in Furs and Female Vampire. They were lush, languid, filled with sexy bodies, and had plots that were largely inconsequential. With Kiss of the Damned, Xan Cassavetes is trying to recapture that feeling of the purposeless vampire movie without devolving into the maudlin vampire genre that was created in Twilight.

Kiss of the Damned focuses on the relationship of a Paolo, a screenwriter, who falls in love with a hot vampire woman, Djuna, and then is turned by her. Later, as they're nesting, Djuna's sister Mimi reappears from Amsterdam following a tumultuous whatever, and creates chaos simply by being present, and by not killing her victims and leaving them around to be resurrected.

Apparently, in the mythos of Kiss of the Damned, if a vampire doesn't decapitate their victims, the victims have a chance of randomly resurrecting. No blood exchange needed. Djuna's problem with Mimi is that she claims that Mimi doesn't properly protect her victims, whereas Mimi and Paolo always decapitate their victims.

Djuna also has a problem with Mimi's periodically wild party lifestyle. This is shown by a threesome with a random couple in the gigantic mansion Djuna has. Everybody snipes at each other, people die, and the movie ends.

What Cassavetes captures with Kiss of the Damned is the languid pacing that came with the arthouse erotic horror film, as well as the inconsequential plots. With all of the fancy camera work, however, Cassavetes somehow misses the completely lush gorgeous look that those old films actually captured. Maybe it was in color selection, fabrics and shapes that were en vogue, or just a general aesthetic of color choice, camera angles, lighting and film stock. But, Cassavetes misses the mark in a fully transformative experience.

Cassavetes also seems to be attempting to turn Twilight inside out by deconstructing a couple of the central ideas from the novel, but putting them into an erotic old-school movie genre. She includes the fight between Mimi and Djuna about Djuna's turning Paolo into a vampire. There is discussion of the morality of humans and vampires. There is discussion about the larger groupings of vampirism, with Djuna and Mimi being sisters from the same mother. Cassavetes is simultaneously exposing these discussions to be as silly and morally relative as they are.

Cassavetes also tones down the rampant, gratuitous, nudity that dominated the Jess Franco vampire movies. In some of his more notorious movies, like Vampyros Lesbos, Franco would essentially fill the movie wall to wall with beautiful naked vampire women, and the movies would be a classy excuse to see a blue movie because it was a Spanish movie, and therefore have more cultural currency. Cassavetes has little interest in keeping everybody naked, though does frequently indulge in shirtless displays of Milo Ventimiglia (Paolo).

The experiment that is Kiss of the Damned is, ultimately, a mild success. It does succeed in deconstructing and  mocking Twilight without being overt about its intentions. It only half succeeds in recreating the atmosphere of the original vampire erotic genre. And, it isn't nearly as over the top as it should be. It's entertaining in fits, but ultimately it is brought down by the lack of anything going on.

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