Kiss of the Damned Blu-ray Review
Some of you may remember vampire films, and other such vampire stories, before there was a TWILIGHT; before there was Edward and Bella, before teenager girls (primarily) swooned at the thought of eternal love by becoming the undead. Remember, there was a time when vampires and werewolves were for nerds… nerds like me, definitely. But all the same. The beautiful (if a bit self-conscious) KISS OF THE DAMNED, a new film from director Xan Cassavetes, tries to return a bit of the mysticism, seduction, and terror of earlier vampire flicks to the screen, with mixed results. Still, the drama is breathtaking in its presentation and certainly breathes fresh air into a world that was becoming tired (at least to this reviewer).
Djuna (Josephine de La Baume) avoids human contact, living in a large estate outside a small town. When she drives into town one night she runs into a visiting screenwriter, Paolo (Milo Ventimiglia, HEROES’ multi-talented Peter). They are instantly attracted to each other but Djuna tries to keep her distance. Very quickly, though, they give in to their desires and Paolo learns the truth – Djuna is a vampire. Unhappy with his own life, Paolo takes advantage of the first opportunity to join Djuna and be with her forever, no matter how much she tries to avoid him. When Djuna’s sister Mimi (Roxane Mesquida) arrives at the house we begin to learn about the vampire culture. Many vampires are civilized and they have lived long enough they have decided no longer to feed on humans… but even those who have made this commitment have to be careful around humans lest the monster be released.
Mimi is the polar opposite of Djuna, raw sensuality without the refined beauty and almost tangible love radiating from Djuna and Paolo. They don’t get along and no one will believe that Mimi isn’t trying to follow their rules, even as she hunts and kills multiple persons from the small town. Djuna and Paolo, however, are content to stay within their own little world, if they possibly could get away from the chaos and blood in Mimi’s wake. This probably sounds a LOT more like an action movie than a drama – which is why I want to again compliment the cinematographer and director for putting together a beautiful picture that never has to directly show us the action yet remains compelling.
The reason KISS OF THE DAMNED is so uneven, I believe, is because it is an emotionally complex story with some incredibly tough beats to play out in 90 minutes. If they had taken the time to flush out some of these moments it would only have enhanced the presentation. A good example is just how quickly everything happens in the opening minutes – you really don’t know who Djuna or Paolo are and yet they are doing things you sense might have meaning… if only you knew what it was. This comes from someone who REALLY likes this movie, it is a disservice to take out the little moments establishing their relationship. Regardless of how much you love someone in the “love at first sight” storyline you don’t know how long it’s going to last and this commitment to a life forever together just doesn’t get the time and effort it should.
KISS OF THE DAMNED presents a fairly cliché view of the vampire subculture but it’s been so long since we got to see one onscreen it is mostly a breath of fresh air. This, the first fictional film from director Xan Cassavetes (daughter and sister to the other notable Cassavetes who probably come to mind), is an achievement regardless of its faults. The story moves ever-forward, driven by a raw sensuality we have come to forget was so often part of vampire lore. She gets a lot of kudos for casting, especially the leads, as Milo Ventimiglia is great and tortured as this unnerving screenwriter longing for a different life. The casting, in an English-language role, of French-speaking Josephine de La Baume, is absolutely what makes the film. Her delivery, her presence, everything about her performance works. While definitely not for younger ones, I can’t help but recommend KISS OF THE DAMNED. Despite inconsistencies in writing, Xan Cassavetes is a talented director and I can’t wait to see her next film.
KISS OF THE DAMNED BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: (1080p Widescreen 2.39:1) KISS OF THE DAMNED features vibrant, beautiful cinematography violently clashing between dark and light. It is immersive but also keeps you at arms length. If you love European horror movies of the 60s and 70s you’ll feel right at home.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) The audio presentation of KISS OF THE DAMNED is equally stylized to accentuate the
Audio Commentary with director Xan Cassavetes (01:35:28) Writer/director Cassavetes talks about how she came up with the story (inspired by a walk-through of the house), her influences, and more. She spends a lot of time explaining character motivation, which quite honestly is a little boring. It doesn’t help that her voice is notably monotonous throughout. Not something to watch if you’re checking out KISS OF THE DAMNED for the first time late at night.
Interview with Josephine de La Baume as Djuna (09:50) Some additional context is shared by de La Baume in these high definition feature. KISS OF THE DAMNED does a nice job with the special content and it’s presentation.
Interview with Roxane Mesquida as Mimi (07:13) Mesquida provides some insight into her character choices and her process for preparing for KISS OF THE DAMNED.
AXS TV Interviews (12:05) 2 additional interviews are included on KISS OF THE DAMNED and present a bit more information. Includes an interview with Milo Ventimiglia and another interview with Mesquida.
KISS OF THE DAMNED also features the Theatrical Trailers (05:02) for the film.