M.L. Miller here! As I go into the tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved. Moving on to Year Three of my decade-long Retro-Best in Horror recap Countdowns begins officially on October 1, 2012 and goes through September 30, 2013. I have posted compilation lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also worked and reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around, and even adding a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t!

How did I compile this list? I simply looked through films released between October 1st, 2012 and September 30, 2013 and worked and reworked the list until I had the magic number—31. Again, I never call myself any kind of expert in horror. I simply watch a lot of horror films and love writing about them. Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!

Released on March 28, 2013 and available on digital download, On Demand and BluRay/DVD here!

KISS OF THE DAMNED (2012)

Directed by Xan Cassavetes
Written by Xan Cassavetes
Starring Joséphine de La Baume, Roxane Mesquida, Milo Ventimiglia, Anna Mouglalis, Michael Rapaport, Riley Keough
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here

Though the sensuality of vampirism has been the focus of many a horror movie, not until recently with the TWILIGHT phenomenon has it caused so many a fanboy to groan in pain. Anyone trying to highlight that the intake of blood as an intimate form of contact is going to make most tune out immediately. While some filmmakers have tried to go the opposite route (STAKE LAND for example) and bring the grit back to being a vampire, filmmaker Xan Cassavetes (daughter of John Cassavetes and actress Gena Rowlands) has decided to take the concept of the sensuality of vampires back to the realm of serious filmmaking with KISS OF THE DAMNED.

The title of KISS OF THE DAMNED is very reminiscent of Jean Rollin’s classic erotic vampire films and in tone, it’s much like those surreal vamp films. Cassavetes amps up the sexuality as Tony Scott did with THE HUNGER and Hammer did with their lesbian vampire films of the late sixties and early seventies in this modern telling of boy meets girl vampire, girl vamp turns boy, boy and girl vamp try to make things work in a world filled with sunlight half the time. Throw in a crazy vampire sister and you’ve got a whole lot of bloody drama.

The cast is top tier as Joséphine de La Baume plays the gorgeous Djuna, a vampires who lives a quiet life until she runs into Paolo (Milo Ventimiglia) at a late night video store. Immediately, there is a spark and though it is against Djuna’s instincts to stay away, she goes with her gut (or maybe something a bit further south) and lets Paolo into her home. Though she drops plenty of clues like telling Paolo she has a rare skin condition and watches an old black and white vampire film in front of him, Paolo just doesn’t get it. Even when she chains herself up to the bed, Paolo still is just attracted to this kinky doll, and though it takes him a while to truly understand what it is he had fallen in lust with, his decision to become a creature of the night is pretty hasty. Soon, Djuna’s sister Mimi (Roxane Mesquida) shows up and immediately causes trouble for the couple as she brings couples home to screw and drain, attacks anyone who shows up at the house with a pulse, and tries to seduce Paolo right under her sister’s nose. All of this is done with style as the confident cast is able to amp up both the sensuality and drama exquisitely.

If KISS OF THE DAMNED has any flaws, it has to do with showing how Mimi’s interventions effect the relationship between Djuna and Paolo. Much time is dedicated to showing Paolo and Djuna’s initial attraction and development into a couple, but after they come together, the focus is shifted to Hurricane Mimi and the carnage she leaves in her sultry wake. Sure there are scenes of Paolo and Djuna coming back together after the things Mimi does, but music and stylish cuts cover up what should have come out in some drama. Cassavetes chooses to skip over these scenes which some might find boring as the couple try to understand, develop, and eventually save their relationship behind the scenes, but the film is somewhat lacking in depth in the final act as all eyes focus on Mimi and her destructive ways.

Still this is an exceptional vampire film. Don’t worry. All of drama is bathed in copious amounts of blood and some stylishly orchestrated shots of vampire debauchery. There are some nice nods to how vampires react to the modern treatment of their species in current cinema and references to TRUE BLOOD which I found to be amusing. And it’s all set to an absolutely delicious retro score which borrows heavily from the Italian giallo films and makes this film feel more like a lost film from the seventies rather than something recently produced. Though I found the story lacking a bit in the last act, there’s a lot Cassavetes did right with this film, especially considering it’s her first feature length movie. KISS OF THE DAMNED is the antidote for all of the crap vamp films horror fans have had to endure through recent years and well worth seeking out.




THE 2012-2013 COUNTDOWN!


#15 – KISS OF THE DAMNED
#16 – JUG FACE
#17 – NO ONE LIVES
#18 – YOU’RE NEXT
#19 – HOME SWEET HOME
#20 – THE TAINT
#21 – THE PURGE
#22 – RITUAL/MODUS ANOMALI
#23 – V/H/S/2
#24 – MON AMI
#25 – EUROPA REPORT
#26 – BLIND ALLEY
#27 – MIDNIGHT SON
#28 – DEVIL’S PASS
#29 – COME OUT AND PLAY
#30 – THE LAST WILL & TESTAMENT OF ROSALIND LEIGH
#31 – I DIDN’T COME HERE TO DIE


M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.

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