There are times when what worked in a certain generation won’t necessarily mean that such a premise or style of filmmaking would work in this present generation. I was in the mood to see some kind of erotic vampire flick that I took a chance with a pre-release screening of “Kiss of the Damned” (due to be released on May 3). Director Xan Cassavetes’ film would’ve worked back in the seventies and the eighties since it feels like a throwback to the cult vampire flicks of the past, but for some reason, the film just did not work for me.
The premise is actually an interesting one. A screen writer named Paolo (Milo Ventimiglia) becomes totally strung with a woman named Djuna (Josephine dela Baume). She tries to resist his advances but eventually she gives in. On their first night together, she actually reveals to Paolo that she is a vampire but she hasn’t taken a human life. Djuna is part of a group of vampires who choose to co-exist with humans peacefully. Paolo and Djuna’s passions are really taking over and the two had fallen in love. But when Djuna’s sister, Mimi (Roxanne Mequida) shows up to stay for a week, their love story is threatened as well as the peaceful vampire community.
The plot actually has some potential, but unfortunately the writing just did not have the balls to go far with its premise or to develop its devices properly. For such a premise to work, the devices needs to be developed and certain rules needed to be followed. The screenplay is pretty disjointed, and it is filled with several inconsistencies. Much of the details seemed left for the viewer to assume, and really just buy into what is being shown. Much as I was intrigued with the idea of a human falling in love with a vampire, the way they fell into each other’s arms felt a little too easy with very little to show for how such an affair could have its consequences.
The vampire community was merely used as a device to try to give Djuna’s existence some credibility. Details as to how they worked were shown in a party or a gathering, but it was all about dialogue that the details did not come forth quite strong in the narrative. Mention of a synthetic blood, how some blood is “Kosher” seems interesting, but really the script does so little with that element. The product of a ‘maid’ or a caretaker who takes care of the house was also touched on but never truly developed in the script. The vampires themselves are different and yet the same as they have an allergic reaction to sunlight. I did not see them exercise a phenomenal show of strength (save for Mimi), they are immortal, they heal almost instantly and certain things are set for them to follow. These details are merely mentioned in the dialogue and this is where the script also fumbles as it showed major inconsistencies.
I guess the goal of the film is to be erotic, and while there is a good number of sex scenes and of nudity, it just was the same if one was watching late night Cinemax. The sex scenes seemed to be there just to aid in the film’s flow, but it does not go as far as it should go. There was one interesting sex scene in the first act but that was it, the rest was pretty below average. For a film that lacks in screenplay, I would’ve wished for one thing for it to excel at, and it did not even go that far with the blood and gore, and even the sex scenes. It was a little too mild to be exploitive and too dull to be an art house horror drama.
The acting was pretty tepid. Sure, the performers did not have much to work with in the script, but emotions were almost none-existent. Josephine Dela Baume and Roxanne Mequida were nice to look at. Dela Baume did try to connect with the emotional aspects of the script, but there really wasn’t much to connect with. Mequida plays that usual ‘rogue’ but she never really sold the character. Ventimiglia’s presence felt a little underwritten that he was the one character that felt a little out of place at times. I guess even the actors felt bored with their own roles and did not know exactly how to approach them.
“Kiss of the Damned” could’ve been a more compelling piece of vampire eroticism, if it went down the road of “True Blood”, then it may have been on the right path. The screenplay was just a little out of focus that it failed to sell its devices and the plot was lazily developed. Yes, it may be a throwback to those low-budget vampire exploitation films, but even then, it just struggled to establish its own identity. I say if you want to focus on ‘sex, then do so, if one wants to focus on gore and blood, do so. What really gets to me is the fact that the film felt confused as to what it wanted to be. Skip this film, but if you want to see some T and A, then rent it, just do not say I did not warn you. [1 Out of 5 Stars]
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