Review: Kiss of the Damned

Kiss of the Damned received a lot of positive notices after it played this year’s South by Southwest. Maybe seeing it with a crowd makes a difference. Or maybe there was something in the air in Austin when it was screened. Either way, this critic feels like they saw an entirely different movie than the one in those favorable reviews. 

A vampire tale that is awfully familiar, Kiss of the Damned is like a Skinemax offering with marginally better acting and a slightly bigger budget. If some flesh and sex are all you ask of a vampire movie, you will be plenty satisfied. But it’s not quite ridiculous enough to fall into so-bad-it’s-good territory and for the most part it is excruciatingly dull. 

Paolo (Milo Ventimiglia) is a screenwriter camped out in some small town in an effort to get some peace and quiet and focus on his writing. One night he ventures to a local bar for some Scotch and is immediately smitten with Djuna (Josephine de la Baume). Sparks fly and she takes him back to her place, a large house she is watching for a friend. Just when things start to get hot and heavy, Djuna pushes Paolo away. She claims to have a skin condition and says it is too dangerous and he must go. 

Paolo is not deterred. Less than 10 minutes into the movie he is completely obsessed with Djuna. He basically stalks her until she lets him back into the house. To make sure he understand what he is dealing with, she chains herself to a bed and allows him to see her turn into a vampire. Does Paolo run when he sees a woman chain herself to a bed and proclaim to be a vampire? No. Does he run after she really does turn into a vampire? No. He acts as if this is something he sees all the time. Instead he lets her bite and turn him, telling her that “I’d have done anything to be with you.” At this point, outside of being a vampire, there sure doesn’t seem to be anything remarkable about Djuna. 

Djuna fills Paolo in on the lifestyle, explaining that they will heal quickly and never age, but they can die (beheading, etc.). It’s the usual rules. Everything is going well until her sister, Mimi (Roxane Mesquida), shows up. Mimi is nuts and she and Djuna do not get along. They bicker endlessly about nothing particularly interesting and Djuna knows that she and Paolo need to get far away as soon as possible. 

The bickering is boring. Vampires discussing the current state of vampire life (are they the real monsters or are human?) is boring. Talk of a synthetic drug awaiting FDA approval is boring. The love story at the center of everything is forced and unconvincing. The acting ranges from passable to embarrassing. There’s the aforementioned sex and a little gore but it’s certainly not the least bit suspenseful. Everything is stale and sluggish. 

It also takes itself way too seriously most of the time. There are moments of absurdity (Paolo and Djuna kissing passionately through a chained door, seen via overhead shot) and you think maybe it will run with this and be entertaining. But those moments are the exception. For the majority of its running time Kiss of the Damned is tiresome and pedestrian.  

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