When I first heard about Kiss of the Damned I was cautiously optimistic. The film's poster being a direct homage to 70's euro Vampire tales from Jean Rollin or Jesus Franco only increased my expectations and the fact that it's John Cassavetes' daughter, Xan Cassavetes, debut feature certainly left much intrigue. Well after seeing the film I am happy to report that Kiss of the Damned is a sexy, violent vampire tale that relies on a heavy dose of atmosphere to overcome its narrative flaws. The film is the story of Djuna, a beautiful vampire who hunts animals as a way to quench her thirst. One night while out on the town she forms an instant connection with a human, Paolo, and while she initially resists her urges, she eventually give into her passion, turning him so they can live together forever. In this particularly story the vampire community lives among the humans, many choosing to quench their thirst through synthetic or animal blood, attempting to rid themselves of the monster within. Things become more complicated when Djuna's sister, Mimi, comes to visit, a vampire who doesn't exactly agree with suppressing her urges, leading to her threatening Djuna's happy ending. Kiss of the Damned relies heavily on its visual and audio design to create a brooding and hypnotic atmosphere, effectively transporting the viewer into the world of Djuan and Paolo. The sound design may go a little overboard at times, but for the most part it's very effective at entrancing the viewer in its spell. For better or worse the direction of the film is surprisingly assured, with certain scenes being well-crafted and executed while others sometimes border on pretension and excess. The film does a great job a capturing the eroticism of the vampires as well with quite a few scenes that do the 70's film justice. Besides its atmosphere what works so well about Kiss of the Damned is how the film captures the dichotomy between these two sisters, capturing how being a vampire could be viewed as a blessing or a curse. Kiss of the Damned has a lot of interesting ideas, like how humans are just as monstrous as vampires the only difference being that society has set laws and rules to make them civil. The film's weakest aspect is simply how the narrative unfolds with Mimi's character arch feeling rushed and uneven. While overall I didn't find this core arrative that interesting (sister vs. sister), Kiss of the Damned is an atmospheric experience and a welcome addition to the vampire genre especially given most of the crap coming out today.
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