Now in theaters and on VOD is Xan Cassavetes’ Kiss of the Damned, a sexy throwback to ’60s vampire fare that stars Milo Ventimiglia as a screenwriter who meets a gorgeous bloodsucker named Djuna (Josephine de La Baume).
She tries to resist the advances of the writer, but eventually gives in to temptation. When her troublemaker sister Mimi arrives unexpectedly, Djuna’s love story is threatened and the whole vampire community becomes endangered.
Cassavetes – daughter of the legendary John Cassavetes – makes her feature debut with the film and we spoke to her about her directing experience.
Shock Till You Drop: Where did this film come from for you, personally? Was it out of a desire to break the vampire sub-genre out of this rut we’re in with films like Twilight?
Xan Cassavetes: Well, I’m pretty out of touch with reality. I know a lot of people have strong feelings about vampire movies today and I took my daughter to go see Twilight. I didn’t even think to categorize it as a regular vampire movie. I won’t watch TV or True Blood, so I’m not mad at it. I live in my head and whatever. When I think of vampire movies, I think of what you think. The Hunger, Daughters of Darkness, Jean Rollin, Klaus Kinski. I think of scenarios, as an adult, that pose heavy questions. Being in the middle of this confusing earth and finding a place here. For vampire movies, it’s pertinent to answer the question why the hell we’re here. What am I made of: good or bad? These are going to be questions people ask and vampire movies offer those questions.
Shock: Talk a bit about the casting and the actors you chose to convey the themes you wanted?
Cassavetes: I had been setting up this other movie that was going to go. It was such a big thing and we were going in circles working with these big stars and I became so turned off by the process. I felt alienated trying to get these big stars. For this, I wanted people who were unknown and had a great attitude and had no blocks between me and them creatively. I wanted French women and extremely beautiful people. I always admired Roxane [Mesquida] and Josephine – I had never seen a face like that since Sharon Tate. Milo was handsome and I needed someone like him. I needed the question of superficiality to be not only a question from the audience but a question from the characters when confronted with the motivation of them getting together so quickly and taking the risks they do. That he is sexually attracted to her, too, was important.
Shock: What was the most exciting aspect of this project for you? Was it the visuals, the characters, the soundtrack? What fired you up?
Cassavetes: Sometimes you can say, ‘I’m into directing and people aren’t as serious as me!’ But I think I’m a little OCD, that’s why I put so much attention and care into it. I was so obsessed with every aspect of it. At 45 years old, I’m making a film for the first time and questioning myself, ‘Is this the thing I thought it was going to be?’ Is it the answer to all of my creative frustrations? The answer was ‘yes.’ I loved prepping it. I loved shooting it. I loved editing it with my editor. I loved the sound design and music prep. I loved working with my music supervisor. I loved everything about it. That’s not to say there were not moments of frustration and stress. I pray I get to do it again.
Shock: Did you go through various vampire looks before settling on what reached the screen?
Cassavetes: I was reluctant to even have them wear contacts. As far as the look went, I wanted something old school and minimal. There are so many things during the making of the movie where you’re like, ‘Is this too out of control? Is it cheesy?’ You have to make that judgment call, ‘Hell no! Put those contacts in!’ What’s going to be fun, great, beautiful and freaky? That’s what you had to answer to. The contacts came in, the teeth came in and we did some make-up around their eyes. There’s something sexy to the depravity and danger. So, when they morphed into these creatures, there’s something kinkily attractive, at least I think so! [laughs]