The sly joke in Xan Cassavetes' "Kiss of the Damned" is that her vampire couple just want to be normal -- read: boring. When not devouring possums in the countryside, Djuna (Joséphine de La Baume) and Paolo (Milo Ventimiglia) are happiest listening to classical music in their sedan driving home from a chic cocktail party where the host serves "politically correct" platelets, a tedious afterlife they hope to enjoy for the next 5,000 years.

Cassavetes (yes, daughter of John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands) clues us in with the title font of "Kiss of the Damned" that this is pure kitsch. But as soon as we fall sway to her sumptuously goofy gothic, in barges Djuna's estranged sister Mimi (Roxane Mesquida) on her way to "rehab" to recover from her addiction to human blood.

JosÈphine de la Baume and Milo Ventimiglia in KISS OF THE DAMNED, a Magnet Release.Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.
JosÈphine de la Baume and Milo Ventimiglia in KISS OF THE DAMNED, a Magnet Release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing. ( Magnet Releasing )

Picture the stony, kewpie-doll face of Kristen Stewart tarted up in Eurotrash latex and fake blood, and you have an idea of Mesquida's electrifying sexual impact.

Neither she nor De La Baume has a firm grasp of English, so we're never sure whether they're communicating with telepathy or whether it's deliberately bad dubbing -- this is, after all, as much a salute to Italian horror legend Mario Bava as it is an actual film.

Yet the confident, female-driven sensuality of "Kiss of the Damned" anchors this handsome nonsense. Djuna lusts for Paolo, Mimi lusts for blood, and Michael Rapaport, here in a cameo as Paolo's agent, is just hoping to stay alive.

'kiss of the damned'

* * ½

Rating: R (for violence, sexual content, nudity and language)
Cast: Joséphine de La Baume, Milo Ventimiglia and Roxane Mesquida
Director: Xan Cassavetes
Running time: 1 hour,
37 minutes