JWR Articles: Film/DVD - Kiss of the Vampire (Director: Joe Tornatore) - May 23, 2009

Kiss of the Vampire

Immortally Yours

4 4
92 min.

Dying for immortality

With so many vampire films already made (cross-references below), it takes great courage to conceive, much less write and produce another tale from the crypt. Nonetheless, devotees and newcomers alike ought to get their fangs into this production for one simple reason: style.

It’s clear from the opening sequence at the opera (soprano Maria Russo passionately declaims “Suicidio” from Ponchielli’s La Gioconda; Edin Dino Zonic heroically leads the combined forces of the Miami Valley Symphony Orchestra/Stivers Philharmonic Orchestra—Dayton, Ohio is well served in its musical life) that both writer, Katherine Hawkes (who also stars as Estelle), and director, Joe Tornatore, are of one mind in the telling of this operatic-in-scope-and-incredulity tale.

For three-quarters of the film there is real magic on the screen. This coven of werewolves (insatiably led by Gary Daniels’ blood-loving portrayal of Sebastian)—whether in a pounding dance club or the town park—stalk their prey and attack in a pack, much to the delight of cinematographer Carl Bartels’ who captures the red-frenzied action with overhead shots that simultaneously display the deadly result of gang mentality while letting viewers’ imaginations fill in most of the gore.

The leader of the perpetually undead comes and goes in the extra-power form of Alex (Daniel Goddard is ideal as the suave blood-sucker who loves, music, art and—much to his peril—the stunningly mortal Estelle).

But it’s not just the neck-biters who are in the throes of unending existence. The deliciously named Illuminati is a secret cartel of rich, ruthless and white-bread businessmen who are using their ill-gotten millions to pay the brightest minds they can find to unlock the scientific answer to life everlasting. They are driven in their quest by Victor Price (Eric Etebari) whose own being is in such a precarious state that he must rely on his coke-dealing henchman Rex, (Costas Mandylor) to scour the streets for sudden “donors” of replacement body parts.

Cleaning up the carnage and summoning specialized help to rid small-town Ohio of its voracious killers are Katie Rich as Alice and Vince Jolivette as Pete. The latter, in one of the film’s most inspiringly creative sequences appears as a Pagliacci-like clown—replete with juggling balls—on a stakeout that brings the cops and their feeding adversaries face to face in the early going. Deft touches such as this, an inner-child transparency, sunburst canvas and a “Music is good for the soul” wall plaque have the film soaring steadily upward to the rarely seen realm of cinematic excellence. Gordon McGhie’s discreet and supportive original score is also an important contribution to the overall tone and the multi-layered levels of meaning.

Alas, the sun rises too soon and the film’s soul is forced to prematurely disappear into the night. With so many strands requiring some sort of unifying conclusion (most importantly Alex’s desire to return to mortality to love, live and grow old with his love-at-first-glance desire, Estelle—their dialogues are models of understatement and turn-of-phrase), the production slips into narrative purgatory never to return to the land of the delectably damned. (As the growing police forces put their prey under 24-7 surveillance, they slam doors, leave on interior car lights and abandon standard arrest procedure—collectively sticking the pin into the wondrously suspended balloon of disbelief.)

Still, there’s so much to otherwise admire, a viewing—whether or not the moon is full—is highly recommended. JWR

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Further information, future screening/performance/exhibition dates,
purchase information, production sponsors:
Miami Valley Symphony Orchestra mti Home Video Stivers School for the Arts
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