It's hard to believe the vampire craze is still going strong. Sure, the zombie frenzy has lightened the load a little bit, but I think it's still safe to say that the vampire genre is not going away anytime soon. Since there are tons of vampire movies, specifically in the last five years, it's difficult to make something original or do something that hasn't been done a thousand times over. There comes a time when you either have to do something new or make something so beautiful and amazing that it rises above the rest.
And that is what Xan Cassavetes tried to do with her vampire flick, 'Kiss of the Damned'. Right off the bat with the title, I already knew this wasn't going to be my type of vampire movie. I prefer my vampires ugly, mean, evil, and hell-bent on drinking human blood, like the vamps we saw in The Lost Boys or 'Salem's Lot'. Over the years, we have come to know a different kind of vampire. One who is always beautiful, and is looking for that one true love. We have also seen vampires who refuse to drink blood and instead drink blood substitutes. It just takes away from the whole reason for being a vampire, which is to drink human blood to stay alive.
Now Xan comes from some talent, as her dad was John Cassavetes and her brother is Nick Cassavetes. 'Kiss of the Damned' is Xan's first big project, and while it's technically and visually pleasing, the story and characters are anything but. In fact, this has "bad sitcom for the CW" written all over it. And I guess just to be different, she added in the vampire aspect. Just to be clear, this is not a horror film, so if you're expecting some scary, blood-sucking suspense, you won't find it here. However, this film is chock full of nudity, with some blood here and there, but it plays more as a female feud drama than any sort of scary movie.
The film follows Djuna (Josephine de La Baume), who is a vampire that is a few hundred years old, and is housesitting for another vampire in Connecticut. The vampires in this movie are similar to HBO's 'True Blood', in that they tend to not drink human blood, as it is considered bad form. Instead, they roam the forests for animals to kill or drink a blood substitute, which is boring to say the least. Luckily for Djuna meets a sexy young screenwriter named Paolo (Milo Ventimiglia), and the two begin a torrid love affair. Djuna struggles with the notion that she'll eventually have to turn her new lover, while Paolo wants nothing more than to become immortal and be with her forever. After some more sex, Djuna turns him full vampire.
But why end a movie there? We need some sort of hilarious conflict, right? Shortly after Paolo is turned and the two lovers are destined to spend the next million years in peace together, Djuna's whacky and insane sister Mimi (Roxane Mesquida) shows up to ruin everyone's good time. You see, Mimi has a bad habit of doing what her evil-given right is to do - drink human blood. But since that is so frowned upon here, she must enter rehab, and this big house with her sister is a good place for her to lay low and get some help. Well as you can imagine, Mimi is too crazy to do any good for anyone around her, and the lives of Djuna, Paolo, and the vampires around them are all getting the bitter end of the stick. So something drastic needs to happen.
The problem with 'Kiss of the Damned' is that it tries so hard to not be a vampire movie, which is strange because that's what we're dealing with here. This film could have been better if it was just regular people living their fancy lives. I will say that Xan knows how to work a camera and has a great eye that translates into some good filmmaking, technically speaking. Of course Ventimiglia is great in his role, but I've seen him in better movies. Possibly, it's the script here that takes out all of the fun. Will you see naked women here? Yes. Will you see blood? Yes. But why do we have to sit around for 100 minutes and wait from slow scene to slow scene in order to get what we really want to see? This is one vampire movie that I could have done without.
'Kiss of the Damned' comes with a decent 1080p HD transfer presented in 2.40:1 aspect ratio. First off, the color in the film seems to be muted the whole way through, as if to create some dark and brooding mood. That being said, the colors still come off as vibrant as they can. The red blood looks particularly good here.
The detail is crisp, with some well-defined textures that show up from time to time. There is also a filmic look to the movie as there is a fine layer of grain throughout. During the darker scenes, things go a bit soft and the grain becomes heavier. Black levels are solid and deep with the skin tones coming off as natural. There are no compression issues to talk about here.
This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix and it sounds great. The dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to understand, and is free of pops, cracks, and hissing. The ambient noises and sound effects are heightened, with some great sound coming from the surrounds in the form of thunderstorms, creepy breathing, and some score crescendos.
The dynamic range is fairly wide, with some good highs and lows. This is mostly a dialogue driven movie with some soft sounds, but with the decent score and the great sound effects, this audio track is pretty solid.
'Kiss of the Damned' is not a vampire movie I want to see again, nor do I wish to see something like it. That being said, it is beautifully made, with some decent performances and a lot of nudity. The video and audio aspects of the film are great with a good commentary track and some repetitive interview extras. You can probably skip this one.