Bawdy Bloodsucker Flick Kiss of the Damned Is Not a Film You Can Sink Your Teeth Into

Director Xan Cassavetes could learn a thing or two from her parents

The Kiss of the Damned.

The Kiss of the Damned.

Just what we need—another sophomoric, oversexed vampire movie. You can’t accuse writer-director Xan Cassevetes of lacking imagination. Well photographed, lurid enough to cause concern for the teen market it aims to captivate, and with enough blood to refurbish an abattoir, Kiss of the Damned creates an eerie, foreboding anxiety that comes uneasily close to terror. Too bad they seem to be making it up as they go along.

In a huge, dark, gloomy lake house that seems to be located on the surface of the moon (actually filmed in Connecticut!), Djuna (Joséphine de La Baume), a girl with piercing eyes and an incoherent accent who suffers from a rare skin disease that forces her to stay indoors all day away from the sun, gets through the tedium watching rented movies. Maybe it’s her taste in movies that is making her viral. On a routine trip to a video store that stays open until midnight to return Jennifer Jones in Indiscretion of an American Wife, she locks eyes with Paolo (Milo Ventimiglia), a handsome screenwriter, who follows her home. Before you can say “Bite me,” he gets so sexually turned on when she confesses she’s a Creature of the Night that he practically guides her fangs into his jugular, moaning his way to the first of many ecstatic orgasms. When he regains consciousness, she warns: “If you start to feel a pressure in your lower back, then that will turn into a hunger, and that hunger will grow until you feed.” Totally intrigued by the idea of living forever, Paolo submits unconditionally and unconvincingly, and in no time he’s eyeing deer in the woods with lust (never heard about Lyme disease, I guess). This irks Djuna. Why settle for Bambi when there are so many hot boys and nubile girls ripe for draining? On the plus side: they won’t age, they won’t get sick, and if they get hurt they will heal right away. The dangers: sunlight, decapitation, fire. “I can’t believe what I was missing,” sighs Paolo.

Suddenly the Veteran Vampire and the Newbie Vampire are invaded by the Bitchy Vampire, Djuna’s evil sister Mimi (Roxane Mesquida), who arrives from Amsterdam looking for new blood. She throws a bisexual orgy and adds her nude guests to the menu, betrays her sister by sucking Paolo’s neck to see what all the fuss is about, and plots to drive them away so she can take control of the house by arranging for the owner, a lesbian stage star no less, to seduce and drain an 28-year-old autograph hunter—the vampire’s prize: a Virgin Vampire! There’s more, but do you care? The sicker it gets, the sillier it becomes. There is one really hair-raising scene for anyone looking for vampire humor: a cocktail party where synthetic blood is served in fine crystal wine glasses. “Don’t worry, it’s not human.” “What is it?” “I don’t know, but whatever it is, it’s kosher … the beluga of politically correct plasma.”

The dialogue is positively Edwardian, but the action is contemporary (and awful). You learn that vampires cook, use the F-word and pick up their victims in discotheques. Except for Milo Ventimiglia, the only cast member with a trace of professionalism, the acting is uniformly dreadful and mumbled in enough distorted accents to be rendered incomprehensible. The intrusive music that drowns out some of offending lines is by Bach, Beethoven, Maria Callas and Ace Ventura. Xan Cassavetes is the daughter of John Cassavetes and the sublime Gena Rowlands. Too bad her parents weren’t around to offer advice on how to make a movie worth writing home about.

rreed@observer.com

KISS OF THE DAMNED

Written by Xan Cassavetes

Directed by Xan Cassavetes

Starring Joséphine de La Baume, Milo Ventimiglia and Roxane Mesquida

Running time: 95 minutes

Rating: 1/4 Stars