If you're the sort of horror fan who is old (or thorough) enough to be familiar with the late-era Hammer Films movies as well as the salacious European genre films from Roger Vadim, Jean Rollin, and Roman Polanski, there's a very good chance you'll enjoy what writer/director Xan Cassavetes has to offer here. Forged from some fine cinematic DNA (her parents are John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands!) and director of the rather fascinating 2004 documentary Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession, Ms. Cassavetes' first feature seems like it was cobbled together from A) fond memories of sexy horror movies, B) an obvious affection for old-school vampire tales, and C) a touch of disgust for how childishly neutered our cinematic vampires have become.
In other words, Kiss of the Damned is quiet but consistently interesting, more than clever enough to make horror fans happy, and overtly sexy in a way that only a good indie vampire movie can be. It has a pretty simple story and the film is not without a few narrative missteps, but Kiss of the Damned has quickly earned a place next to Nadja (1994), The Addiction (1995), and We Are the Night (2010) as indie / international horror films about female vampires that, get this, are actually challenging, insightful, and (best of all) entertaining.
Both a straightforward love story between a woman (vampire) and a man (newbie vampire) and a deviously entertaining battle between two bitchy sisters, Kiss of the Damned uses a pretty conventional framework but manages to delve into some decidedly mature (some might say carnal!) themes about love, lust, loyalty, betrayal, and of course the endless appeal of a nubile virgin with a drop of blood on her mouth. Like I said, it's about lady vampires and it's pretty sexy.
The spine of the story follows an up-and-coming screenwriter (Milo Ventimiglia) who strikes up a passionate affair with Djuna (Josephine de La Baume), only she's a vampire and, well, now he's a vampire too. Kiss of the Damned would probably work as just a twisted romantic drama, but fortunately the horror arrives in the form of Mimi (Roxanne Mesquida), Djuna's bloodthirsty hellcat of a little sister. Whereas the elder sister is classy and demure regarding her need for blood, the younger woman is completely unashamed to host a menage a trois and then toss her lovers onto the menu.
On the surface the movie becomes a mental mind-game between two vampiric sisters who have wildly different perspectives on life and death, and tucked not far beneath are Ms. Cassavetes' amusing observations about haves vs. have-nots; the value of love among ostensibly "dead" creatures; and (most enjoyably) the importance of listening to your big sister about a couple of things, dammit. This is a smart, stylish, and (again) very sexy horror movie that borrows some great touches from older horror movies and combines them with some refreshingly honest perspectives that men will enjoy and women will probably adore. Vampire women, anyway.