The vampire myth has, of course, been done many times (some may say to death, in fact) but writer-director Xan Cassavetes nevertheless attempts to breathe new life into the theme with 'Kiss Of The Damned' – regretfully with limited success.
Joséphine de La Baume stars as Djuna, a lone vampire living in a rural mansion in the backwaters of Connecticut, trying valiantly to slake her bloodlust using all manner of forest fauna. She has a penchant for renting videos from the local store, a habit that leads her to a chance encounter with Paolo, (Milo Ventimiglia) a screenwriter – and human.
Both are (of course) struck by an immediate attraction, and whilst Djuna strives to reject his advances, the pair ultimately give in to their lust, in steamy fashion, with Paolo joining the legions of the undead. All is going swimmingly until Djuna’s less ‘conservative’ vampire sister Mimi (Roxane Mesquida) enters the frame, leaving a trail of bodies in her wake.
Whilst the heavily stylised approach – with experimental angles, intense colours and surreal skyward shots – taken by cinematographer Tobias Datum works well, lending a unique sheen to the look of the film, unfortunately 'Kiss Of The Damned' suffers from a chronic lack of actual story, in a classic case of ‘style over substance’.
The central characters are embroiled in a tedious cycle of bickering without any form of action or progression. For vampires, Djuna and Paolo lead exceptionally dull lives, indulging in the odd gratuitous, randomly placed sex scene before slinking off to engage in painfully pretentious dialogue at civilised, bourgeois vampire parties. Meanwhile, the most interesting character, Mimi, flounces in and out of scenes, throwing contrived tantrums and devouring the odd human.
Although Mesquida and de la Baume deliver passable performances, Ventimiglia’s lumpen acting consigns his character to a seemingly perpetual state of rigor mortis, sapping any semblance of tension or gravitas from his scenes.
Though there are some striking moments - Djuna’s initial transformation being an interestingly animalistic take on this vampiric staple - the unsatisfactory, anticlimactic conclusion and lack of coherent storyline render this a sorely anaemic effort. Watch TV series 'True Blood' instead.
'Kiss Of The Damned' screened at the 56th BFI London Film Festival. UK release to be confirmed.