Kiss of the Damned has some things going for it. The story is a bit slow to develop but it does at least offers some interesting drama between the sister vampires. The performances from the main cast – Josephine de La Baume, Milo Ventimiglia, and Roxane Mesquida – are well done, however de La Baume and Mesquida are breakouts.
Genre(s): Drama, Romance, Fantasy, Horror
Magnolia | R – 96 min. – $29.98 | July 23, 2013
Directed by: Xan Cassavetes
Writer(s): Xan Cassavetes (written by)
Cast: Josephine de La Baume, Milo Ventimiglia, Roxane Mesquida, Anna Mouglalis, Michael Rapaport, Riley Keough
Theatrical Release Date: May 3, 2013
Features: Audio Commentary, Featurettes, Interviews, Theatrical Trailer, BD-Live
Number of Discs: 1
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 5.1), English (DTS-HD MA 2.0)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 2.40
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Disc Size: 27.9 GB
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
THE MOVIE – 3.0/5
Kiss of the Damned is another vampire fantasy-romance-drama but taking a slightly different take, but it’s more or less the hipster version of Twilight and the addictive, long-running, ‘tween television series “The Vampire Diaries”. However, even though Kiss of the Damned meanders through its relatively short 105-minute running time, there’s something about these character that at least kept my attention until the end. No, it’s not a particularly good movie, particularly with a cheesy, almost porn-like score, but it at least has something to offer in a swamped, overdone genre.
The story centers on a young woman named Djuna (JOSEPHINE de LA BAUME) and screenwriter Paulo (MILO VENTIMIGLIA) whose eyes make contact at a video rental store (where they it seems that still rent VHS tapes) and its attraction at first sight. Djuna retreats outside but Paulo pursues and the encounter eventually leads back to her place, a stately manor owned by a friend, but as things get hot and heavy, she kicks Paulo out. Does this deter him? Of course not. The next night he drops by, the pair engages in a passionate kiss in between a chain-locked door whereupon she bites his tongue and, once again, she dejects him.
Now, does that deter him? Nope, even though she refuses to return his calls, he once more stops by and she lets him in. Before they get passionate again, Djuna reveals to Paulo that she is in fact a vampire and with passion, the vampire thirst in her comes out which she demonstrates by having him chain her to the bed, the two make out and she begins to turn. It’s at this point any sane human being, of the living kind anyway, would jet right out of there, but Paulo is the sensitive kind and his attraction to Djuna is unwavering. He eventually unlocks the chains, the two make sweet, passionate love and she in turn bits him in the next thus turning him into a vampire as well. Yep, love bites…
Now a vampire, Djuna introduces Paulo to her world from hunting down animal prey to quench the undeniable thirst, taking him to a soiree where he meets Djuna’s friend, a popular stage actress, Xenia (ANNE MOUGLALIS) where he gets a taste of the vampire society’s upper crust and gets some inner politics of vampires amongst humans. Also entering the fold is Djuna’s estranged sister, the wild Mimi (ROXANE MESQUIDA) who has no qualms with hunting and killing humans to satisfy her appetite. She has arrived in town in transition to some sort of halfway house and has been set up to live under the same roof as Djuna and Paulo. Things are tense from the get-go and don’t get much better.
Written and directed by Xan Cassavetes, daughter of actor/director John Cassavetes and actress Gena Rowland, Kiss of the Damned attempts to be a callback or homage to the vampire movies of the 70s and 80s, and for the most part, succeeds. With this story, I was a bit dubious with the love at first sight that brings the two leads together but once I got passed that, the characters were at least intriguing and adding the Roxane Mesquida, playing a seductress, into the mix, the film does a good job kicking into high gear.
The performances from Josephine de La Baume, Milo Ventimiglia and the aforementioned Roxane Mesquida are all wonderful, de La Baume especially who really helps carry the film across the finish line. Ventimiglia is alright as the eyes and ears for the audience although, again, can’t quite comprehend his character’s insistence and obsession with Djuna especially in light of some questionable actions (the biting through the tongue for one). Personally, I would run the other way… Yet as implausible as it was, de La Baume and Ventimiglia seemed to share wonderful chemistry together.
As for the negatives, there’s nothing here that’s apparent as the actors turn in good performances and the production design isn’t too shabby either, but I felt there was something missing from the screenplay. First, even at only 90-minutes (sans credits), the picture does tend to drag a little but even more egregious, Cassavetes fails to take advantage of a twist on the vampire subgenre.
In the end, Kiss of the Damned is hardly a perfect vampire/fantasy movie, but between the cast of actors and a respectable DP work by Tobias Datum, it makes for an at least enjoyable way to pass an hour and a half.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 3.0/5
Audio Commentary – Director Xan Cassavetes provides a low key but somewhat informative commentary talking about the different locations, the story origins and the influences of past movies as well as the personal elements from her own life that’s seeped into the story.
Interview with Josephine de La Baume (9:50; HD) – The actress discusses the movie and what drew her to the role.
Interview with Roxane Mesquida (7:13; HD) is more of the same as Mesquida talks about her character and working on the project and with director Xan Cassavetes.
AXS TV Interviews (12:05; HD) contains sound bites with Milo Ventimiglia and, again, Roxane Mesquida. Luckily, for Mesquida, it is different from the previous interview but covers much of the same ground.
Theatrical Trailers (5:02; HD)
BD-Live – Yep, a studio still includes this. How quaint.
Previews – To the Wonder, Shadow Dancer, Hammer of the Gods, V/H/S/2
VIDEO – 5.0/5
Kiss of the Damned arrives on Blu-ray via Magnolia Home Entertainment and the 1080p transfer, presented in its original 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio, looks incredible on Blu-ray. The detail levels throughout are excellent with fine particle grains helping to enhance the picture quality. The black levels are impressive and there are no signs of artifacting or pixilation in those darker shots. The colors seem well balanced showing a wide range with darker elements to the brighter spots such as when the women turn into their vampire selves.
AUDIO – 4.75/5
The movie includes a robust sounding 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track which shows off many times from the quieter moments to the more action-oriented scenes where the lossless track really comes to life. The LFE channel is also excellent shaking the walls and floors during key scenes such as in the club or the more “tense” sequences, especially at the end. This is easily one of the better tracks I’ve encountered and for an independent film, it’s especially impressive.
OVERALL – 3.25/5
Overall, Kiss of the Damned has some things going for it. The story is a bit slow to develop but it does at least offers some interesting drama between the sister vampires. The performances from the main cast – Josephine de La Baume, Milo Ventimiglia, and Roxane Mesquida – are well done, however de La Baume and Mesquida are breakouts. The Blu-ray released by Magnolia has outstanding audio and video transfers as well as a respectable number of features.