‘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.


OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…


MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.


De Blasio, Bratton defend city's efforts after Eric…

Mayor Bill de Blasio justified the city's response to the death of Eric Garner, a Staten Island man who died while in police custody earlier this month.


PHOTO: New Zealand Heral uses wrong image to…

The New Zealand Herald made a terrible mistake of using the wrong image to illustrate the tragic death of Staff Sergeant Guy Boyland – a New Zealand-born Israeli soldier who…


Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."


'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.


'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."


TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.


Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.


Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”


Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.


Joe Torre: I'm in Hall of Fame because…

Joe Torre spent 18 years putting together a near Hall of Fame career as a player. But it was the 12 years he spent as…


Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.


Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…


NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.


The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.