‘Kiss of the Damned’ breathes new life into vampire trope

Josephine de la Baume plays a vampire in Xan Cassavetes' "Kiss of the Damned" Credit: Magnet Releasing
Josephine de la Baume plays a vampire in Xan Cassavetes’ “Kiss of the Damned.”
Credit: Magnet Releasing

‘Kiss of the Damned’
Director: Xan Cassavetes
Stars: Josephine de la Baume, Milo Ventimiglia
Rating: R
3 (out of 5) Globes

In addition to being one of the daughters of John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands, among siblings who are also filmmakers, Xan Cassavetes counts among her influences Z Channel, the beloved Los Angeles pay station that in the ‘70s raised a generation on the unsung rarities from the farthest reaches of cinephilia. She paid her respects with the 2004 documentary “Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession.” And she does it again in her first fiction feature, “Kiss of the Damned.” From the title down, including a lovably retro poster, her addition to the towering, near-collapsing vampire pile pays homage to the trashy, atmospheric Euro-horrors of Roger Vadim and Jean Rollin, but filtered through an eccentric personality that has so far only made itself somewhat public.

Josephine de la Baume plays Djuna, an hotcha immortal first making like Catherine Deneuve in “Repulsion”: a beautiful woman with a fear of what her sexuality could do. She nonetheless melts for Paolo (Milo Ventimiglia), a brooding screenwriter who ignores her vague warnings and winds up in a chain-heavy sex scene right out of Paul Schrader’s “Cat People” remake. She can’t help herself, and neither can he, and soon he allows her to welcome him into the fold, becoming the David Bowie to her Deneuve in another movie to which it’s indebted, “The Hunger.” 

Cassavetes may borrow a lot from European cinema, including having European actors speak in awkward, heavily accented English, even to each other (how many Americans have seen Vadim’s “Blood and Roses” in the original French? Probably not many.) But her film is as written as it’s directed. The screenplay keeps coming up with ideas of how to find fresh angles on vampires, a task that may sound daunting considering how seldom most people come up with genuinely novel twists. Being immortal is a bit boring, and here it involves socializing with other vampires, in regal scenes that recall Luchino Visconti: the wealthy as undead.

Soon comes Djuna’s sister Mimi (Roxane Mesquida, of Catherine Breillat’s “Fat Girl”), apparently the only one doing old school random killings. She tears a hellzapoppin’ hole in her sister’s life and in the film, upending their dull routines with unnecessary gougings and doomed threesomes. There’s a fun and genuinely original way this is resolved, one for the books. “Kiss of the Damned” sometimes tries too hard to be original, and could calm down a bit, but there’s no use playing down moments of true freshness.


US military tried, but failed to rescue journalist…

The U.S. military earlier this year tried to rescue journalist James Foley and other American hostages held in Syria ,but failed to find the captives.


Fate of captured beluga whales in hands of…

A Georgia aquarium went to court on Wednesday seeking federal permission to bring 18 captured beluga whales to the United States from Russia.


After Eric Garner death, religious leaders meet to…

Interfaith leaders convened with city officials to discuss what the community can do to help dial down heightened tensions after Eric Garner's death.


'Suspicious' Hamilton Heights fire caused by power strip:…

An extension cord overload caused the deadly fire in Hamilton Heights late Monday that killed a 15-year-old girl and injured at least 12 others.


'So You Think You Can Dance' recap: Season…

And then there were six. It was a big night on stage as the Top 6 got to dance with each other, All-star partners and perform a solo routine.

Going Out

5 things to do in NYC this weekend…

FILM Lebowski Fest Aug. 22-23, 8 p.m. Various locations, Manhattan $20-$30, www.lebowskifest.com The Dude abides — for 48 hours to celebrate the 1998 Coen brothers classic.…


'Doctor Who' personality profile: the 4 Doctors

When the time comes for a new Doctor, there's always some anxiety over the big question: Who will he be? The series owes its longevity…


Billy Crystal to commemorate late actor Robin Williams…

  Comedian Billy Crystal will pay tribute to late actor Robin Williams at television's Primetime Emmy Awards on Aug. 25, the show's organizers said on…


Giants expected to work Corey Washington into first-team…

The day of reckoning for the Giants' fringe players will fall upon them Friday night against the Jets.


Jalen Saunders still unsure what caused car accident…

Jets rookie wide receiver Jalen Saunders spoke to the media Wednesday for the first time since his car accident, but he didn't say a whole lot.


2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL defense (DEF)


2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL quarterbacks (QB)


Online dating for every generation

Frank Jackson and his mother Maggie are like lots of modern families: They have dinner together regularly, keep each other updated on their lives —…


Going green could be the key to getting…

If we could just pursue the things that would actually make us happy, we could help the environment too, according to a New York researcher.…


Metabolic syndrome could have a sugar link

Scientists in St. Louis may have found another culprit in metabolic syndrome, which can lead to heart disease and type 2 diabetes.  Uric acid is…


Another way stress hurts your unborn baby

Mothers know to try staying calm during pregnancy, as stress has been linked to behavioral and developmental problems for their babies. But now, a new…