There’s a scene in hipster vampire romance Kiss Of The Damned that could stand as a metaphor for lead actor Milo Ventimiglia’s career.

The kind of supposedly brilliant screenwriter (he must be brilliant – he has a beard) who rents a house in the middle of nowhere to finish his latest masterpiece, Milo’s Paolo has just become a baby vampire after falling in love with the exotic and beautiful vampire Djuna (Joséphine de la Baume) who lives in the mansion up the road from him with her murderous, slutty sister Mimi (Roxane Mesquida) when he’s visited by his coked-up agent Ben (a scene stealing cameo from a porky Michael Rapaport).  After declaring Paolo a genius on the cusp of fame and fortune, drinking too much red wine and doing too much blow, Ben asks to stay the night, responsibly recognising he’s too fucked up to drive back to LA that night (a long commute, particularly as the film looks like it was shot in Connecticut).  But, wouldn’t you know it, Rapaport ends up as a midnight snack.  AND MILO NEVER REALLY MENTIONS HIM AGAIN!  Which put two thoughts in my mind; do these people know how hard it is to get a decent agent and really Milo, is this any way to run a career?

A ‘70s Eurotrash-inspired retro-horror with a self-conscious arthouse twist, Kiss Of The Damned is sexy but vapid, a flat exercise in mood and style that never really engages.  It’s pretty but pretty vacant, debutante feature writer/director Xan Cassavetes (daughter of John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands) having obviously watched a lot of dubbed Jean Rollin films (everyone delivers their lines flatly as if they’ve been learned phonetically, including Milo) in her formative years and decided what they really needed was less breathless Sapphism (er, this is just me, but wasn’t the girl-on-girl action kinda the point of Jean Rollin?), more exquisitely lit interior design shots that verge on consumer porn and an intrusive electronic score that sounds like Goblin on a bad day.

The plot is simple: Boy (Milo) meets Girl (de la Baume) with unintelligible accent and “rare skin condition’ that makes her allergic to sunlight (that old one again) at local all-night video store.  Only problem is every time Girl gets the horn her fangs come out.  Cue some tastefully-lit rumpy-pumpy with Cat People-inspired bondage where Boy practically shoves his throat onto Girl’s fangs so he can become a vampire too and they can spend eternity having aesthetically pleasing sex and attending middle class vampire dinner parties full of petit bourgeois bloodsuckers discussing the theatre and reminiscing about when they used to hunt humans.  Then Girl’s Bad Little Sister (Mesquida of course) turns up with a different but still pretty much unintelligible accent and a fondness for killing swingers.  Bad Little Sister’s badness is underlined by the fact that she loves being a vampire and thinks killing is, like, totally bitching.  Complications ensue.  Can love win the day?  Do you care?

Lushly shot and suffused with the same ennui as it’s lonely heroine, Kiss Of The Damned is stylish, atmospheric and sexy without ever being involving.  The script is clichéd and holds few surprises, it’s never entirely clear whether we’re supposed to take the film seriously as an arty old-school vampire sexploitation or if it’s an unfunny pastiche and the performances are uniformly bad.  De la Baume looks great clothed and unclothed but mangles the English language like it’s Milo’s neck and her character never really comes to life while bad girl Mesquida turns the sexy/crazy up to 11 and spends much of her time naked and gum-deep in not-so innocent victims.  Which is a good thing because as long as her mouth is busy, she can’t deliver any dialogue.  But at least de la Baume and Mesquida’s lack of English somewhat explains/excuses their performances.  An actor who only ever really comes to life when he’s playing bad guys (see his mesmerising turns in The Divide and Gamer), as bland leading man Paolo in Kiss Of The Damned, Milo seems to be channeling Captain Scarlet to deliver a performance with more wood than Ron Jeremy.  Milo, Milo, Milo…is this any way to run a career?

While it far from sucks (boom boom), like it’s leads, Kiss Of The Damned is slick, stylish and lovely to look at but it has all the depth of blood pooling on marble.

VERDICT: [rating=2]

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