Just because she’s an artery-slurping vampire doesn’t mean scarlet-haired Djuna (Joséphine de La Baume) doesn’t have a bleeding heart. She spends nights weepily watching old movies in her lonely suburban mansion, until the smoldering writer Paolo (Milo Ventimiglia) picks her up in a video store and romantically offers his neck in order to be with her. But their undead domestic bliss is disrupted when Djuna’s bite-’em-and-leave-’em sister, Mimi (Roxane Mesquida), comes to stay, and starts wreaking diabolical havoc on their lives.
Writer-director Xan Cassavetes (daughter of John, if you must know) has concocted an appealingly affectionate homage to ’70s baroque horror films by Jean Rollin and Mario Bava. From high-contrast lighting and telescoped zooms to a blatant disregard for naturalistic dialogue (helped along by two leads speaking in heavily accented English), Cassavetes adopts a grammar that occasionally slides into parody but mostly comes across as committed style. Kiss of the Damned contributes little new to the genre save a taste for alluringly tactile sex scenes and an avoidance of gore. Yet the film serves as a surprisingly persuasive allegory for enduring virgin-whore expectations, contrasting Djuna’s contented homebody with Mimi’s promiscuous hedonist and tapping into the bloody contradictions that flow between them. Most welcome is a vision of partnered boho vampires struggling to remain monogamous, despite a missing houseguest or two.
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