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Kiss of the Damned Review: Vampires Done Right
Kiss of the Damned is an erotic vampire thriller starring Milo Ventimiglia as Paolo, a screenwriter holed up in a mountain vacation town trying to finish a screenplay. He’s supposed to be writing but instead he’s busy renting videos, which is where he meets Djuna, a vampire who stays alone in a mansion on a lake. He doesn’t know she’s a vampire right away of course, though she does tell him that she has a skin condition which keeps her inside while the sun is up. This is the oldest trick in the vampire book, yes, but he doesn’t seem to think anything of it, because, hey, even in vampire movies people always know vampires don’t exist. Until they get bitten or see fangs. He goes back to her place but when things start to get hot between them Djuna makes him leave because she can’t control herself and might drain him dry.
Paolo obsesses over her for the next two days, neglecting his screenplay so that he can call Djuna or visit her house during the night. Djuna tries to be a restrained vampire and send him away for his own good, but even talking through the small space of a chained door isn’t enough to cool the heat between them. They start kissing without unlocking the door, leading to a scene that amuses the viewer while showing you exactly how passionate these two people are about each other, despite having just met. But even kissing through the gap in the door is too much for Djuna, who vamps out and bites Paolo’s tongue, which causes him to run away. He’s still bleeding from the wound the next day, and when night falls he calls Djuna’s and tells her he won’t be denied, and to leave the door open. The next scene involves Djuna being chained to the bed in some very sexy lingerie so she can’t hurt Paolo, even though the audience sees what’s coming.
This is where I really started to like Kiss of the Damned. Not because of the chains and the lingerie, though I enjoyed that aspect, but because the film treats Paolo’s discovery of Djuna’s vampirism as a foregone conclusion and avoids the run-around you can get in other movies.
Even at the start of a very erotic scene, the movie keeps the character’s motives and reactions true to what we know of them so far. For instance, Paolo runs his hands along Djuna’s body and up to her lips, and Djuna promptly tells the idiot to get his fingers away from her mouth. But the audience knows Paolo won’t stop, just as they know that Djuna will do her best to resist but will eventually give in to her desire, which will result in Paolo being bitten and turned into a vampire. Once Paolo’s turned, he moves into the mansion with Djuna, who insists he return to work on his screenplay.
The vampire world Djuna inhabits is glamorous and gentile, with lots of finely dressed vamps talking and drinking blood in a civilized salon-type environment. This is where we meet Xenia, who owns the house Djuna stays in and is sort of a mentor figure to both Djuna and Mimi. Xenia is a playwright and also advocates not drinking humans, and even has an army contact giving her synthetic blood, which she shares with the other vampires.
All that’s well and good, but there’s no real conflict there, which is where Mimi, Djuna’s estranged sister comes in. She’s the opposite of Djuna, and represents the wild, untamed side of vampires. She’s a hedonistic blood drinker that kills her human prey every time. Mimi is supposedly giving up drinking ‘Live’ (to borrow a term from Syfy’s Being Human) and is on her way to a rehab clinic to start her new life. But her place won’t be ready for a week, so she’s staying at the same house as Djuna and Paolo. You can see how much trouble this is going to cause, and I for one couldn’t wait to see what happened.
There’s a refreshing lack of angst in Kiss of the Damned that sets it apart from other modern vampire movies. Paolo, instead of fearing his first feeding or making a big deal out of it, just wants to get it over with. Djuna, reluctant to even engage Paolo in the beginning, never questions turning him. She feels it was inevitable. There’s a great scene during one of the vampire parties where they sit around and discuss humans, vampires and who should be ruling the world.
Mimi likewise is unapologetic, but with a tinge of evil, or at least malice, to her actions. She obviously has to try and seduce Paolo. Then there’s a scene involving Mimi, a virgin named Anne and a vampire who hasn’t tasted human blood in forty years . . . you’ll have to see the movie to know how that all turns out.
Kiss of the Damned is a great vampire movie because the characters revel in being beautiful and immortal in a civilized but still inhuman manner, something we haven’t seen for quite some time.