Stylish, seductive Kiss of the Damned is what Twilight should have been

by Mark Burger

Kiss of the Damned , is an evocative, erotic and eerie vampire chiller that marks the narrative feature debut of writer/director Xan Cassavetes, the talented daughter of John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands, themselves very talented.

Josephine de la Baume portrays Djuna, an alluring vampire who catches the eye of struggling screenwriter Paolo (Milo Ventimiglia). There’s just one problem: Djuna is a vampire. Actually, that’s fine with lonely Paolo, who willingly consents to join her as one of the undead.

Trouble arrives in the form of Djuna’s equally sultry sister Mimi (Roxane Mesquida), whose impetuous and reckless bloodlust will have serious consequences not only for Djuna and Paolo but also for an entire circle of fellow vampires, who tend to drink their blood in wineglasses and discuss their status (such as it is) in sociological terms. To Mimi, they’re simply too “civilized.” They’ve forgotten the primal pleasures of their existence.

Some of what might be called “Twilight trappings” can’t be avoided, including a sometimes-languid pacing and some soulful, moony-eyed brooding, but Kiss of the Damned is more “True Blood” than Twilight — and all the better for it. The film embraces the horrific aspects and amplifies them with a stylish kinkiness. Mesquida and de la Baume are both gorgeous, and lucky Ventimiglia gets to dally with both of them — although this too has consequences for all concerned.

Anna Mouglalis, Riley Keough and Michael Rapaport (amusingly cast as Paolo’s obnoxious agent) also find themselves caught up in this diabolical web of seduction and betrayal, while Steven Hufsteter contributes a terrific score, albeit augmented by some appropriate classical selections. Cult status awaits Kiss of the Damned.