Ushered into that world is Paolo (Milo Ventimiglia, That’s My Boy), a screenwriter who meets the mysterious, gorgeous Djuna (Joséphine de La Baume, Johnny English Reborn). Because of her “skin condition,” she’s a night owl who spends much of her time holed up in an isolated mansion watching old movies by Buñuel and Di Sica.
When first base yields to a run for home, Paolo learns Djuna is a vampire. Her fangs are bared when his skin is the same. Strange thing is, he likes it — so much so that he willingly becomes her mate for eternity. Life is sweet, despite the blood, until Djuna’s little sister, Mimi (Roxane Mesquida, Rubber), shows up unexpectedly. Although she’s only looking to stay for one week, Mimi hardly needs that long to upend it all.
As written and directed by Xan Cassavetes in her feature debut (she previously helmed 2004’s wonderful documentary on cable’s Z Channel), Kiss of the Damned is a study in contrasts between two sisters: the good (Djuna), the bad (Mimi) and the ugliness between them.
Djuna is blessed with supermodel looks; hers is a captivating, voluptuous beauty. Mimi, on the other hand, is a rail-thin waif with Goth-girl accoutrements. Djuna works to keep her temptations in check, while Mimi recklessly feeds her desires like an addict.
Visually sumptuous, it’s a kinky fantasy-horror dressed up in arthouse fabric not often employed since the days of Roger Vadim’s Blood and Roses. Cassavetes’ European sensibilities bring a taste of the exotic to the realm of the erotic, leaving viewers with something that has one foot in the Hammer Films tradition and the other in The Hunger TV series. For those who tire of seeing vampire movies and series made for sex-deprived housewives and soccer moms, and their teen and tween daughters, this dead-sexy, subversively smart Kiss has been planted for you. —Rod Lott