"Kiss of the Damned": Vampire Movies in the Old French Style

Xan Cassevetes's Kiss of the Damned is a loving homage to the Euro-horror genre of the 1960s and 1970s, films like Jess Franco's 1971 Vampyros Lesbos whose promise of lurid thrills made them popular rentals in the early days of home video. Appropriately enough, sexy vampire Djuna (Joséphine de La Baume) and her soon-to-be-lover Paolo (Milo Ventimiglia) first lock gazes in a video store, one which carries a large stock of VHS tapes even though Kiss of the Damned is set in the present day. Unlike other recent VHS horror tributes such as Ti West's House of the Devil or Lindsay Denniberg's Video Diary of a Lost Girl, director Cassavetes (daughter of indie legend John Cassavetes) doesn't try to recreate the textural qualities of the VHS experience, but rather the cinematic lushness that Euro-horror films had when seen in a theater. So Kiss of the Damned is a beautiful film as well as delightfully sleazy, particularly when Djuna's troublemaking sister Mimi (Roxane Mesquida) enters the picture. But for all its sex and blood and often-unsettling dark ambient score, Kiss of the Damned is also surprisingly touching, a story of two people in love who would probably make the same kinds of dumb mistakes even if they weren't creatures of the night.

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