Junkfood Cinema: Vampire’s Kiss

By  · Published on July 16th, 2010

Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema; perpetually full. This is the weekly column that begs the question, “why don’t they just cut off that Salisbury kid’s fingers?!” Each and every Friday I wheel out the very finest, most choice terrible films and force you to sit there and smile as I sing their praises. Despite what certain recent exposé articles may have espoused, I did not suffer a major head injury trying to recreate the parkour scene from Casino Royale. Therefore I still have the cognitive capacity to understand exactly why these films are bad, but sometimes we partake of things we know are bad for us. To that end, I will pair each film with a junkfood item on which you can gorge while you watch the film and bid adieu to each dying brain cell.

Brace yourselves this week kiddos, our foray into the unrefined brings us far too close to Vampire’s Kiss.

What Makes It Bad?

Vampire’s Kiss is so bad that I cannot figure out why it was created. I can only imagine that somehow director Robert Bierman had the foresight to recognize how much people would ironically enjoy Nicolas Cage two decades later. I’m getting ahead of myself. Vampire’s Kiss, at its core, is a banal piece of crap. It’s about a New York City publisher, whom nobody likes, who gets bitten by a vampire and therefore becomes a vampire. The movie offers little more in the way of plot and features a host of scenes wherein rich people enjoy bemoaning their affluence. It came this close to being a completely pretentious waste of time.

Then came Nicolas Cage. His performance in this film should be considered the litmus test for bad acting for every subsequent film you watch. I’m not sure if it was the director’s utter lack of influence or the accessibility of mountains of cocaine but Cage seems totally unaware of not only how acting works, but how human beings are supposed to exist on planet Earth. There are literally lines of dialogue spoken by Cage that seem as if they are coming from a 6-foot meat puppet instead of a real person. And my God if you ever watched a John Malkovich film and thought, “wow, he’s using a really terrible accent,” be prepared to develop a nasty case of renewed respect for John. Cage’s accent in the film is so wretched as to make you want to reach through the screen and beat him to death.

If you are expecting a lot of vampireness from Vampire’s Kiss, I must inexplicably disappoint you. The movie is more about the absurdity of the aristocracy than it is about the legions of the undead. But if you enjoy scene upon scene of therapy sessions with psychiatrists sporting hot pink lip stick, Vampire’s Kiss is for you. If you have always wanted to see how much a Hispanic woman will endure to keep a shitty job, Vampire’s Kiss is for you. If you’ve ever wanted to see cinema’s most awkward sex scene, Vampire’s Kiss is for you. If you’ve ever wondered what Nicolas Cage talking to a wall for fifteen minutes looks like, then I actually have to question your mental condition.

Why I Love It!

This will admittedly be a brisk Junkfood Cinema this week. I’ve been wanting to showcase this film for a long time now, but the very nature of this film precludes lengthy analysis in the format to which I’ve become accustomed. While it is one of the most worthy JFC inductees, there just isn’t much to Vampire’s Kiss. There is one massive problem with the film that would make it categorically unwatchable for most that also happens to be the one defining characteristic that makes me fall head-over-heels in love with it: Nicolas freaking Cage.

Cage is 100% off his god-damned rocker in this film. I would only recently count myself among Cage’s fans, but prior to that I could never isolate what it was about him that put me off. That is until I watched Werner Herzog’s Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. That’s when it dawned on me that the problem with most Cage films is that Hollywood tries to take a complete head case and shoehorn him into “average Joe” roles; leading to disasters like Knowing and Windtalkers. But when Cage is allowed to let his inner lunatic shine through, to be completely untethered by the bounds of acceptable human behavior, that’s when we get his best performances: Bad Lieutenant, Machstick Men, Kick-Ass, even as far back as Raising Arizona. Vampire’s Kiss is like watching the Bad Lieutenant in the 80’s, after he does the world’s longest line of coke, and then pretends to be a vampire.

I guarantee you, if you are a fan of unhinged Cage, you will not laugh harder at any film than you do at Vampire’s Kiss. There are too many scenes in which his insanity completely boils over and ensnares your eyeballs for me to give praise to them all. Let me just say that any film in which Nicolas Cage eats a live cockroach and shouts the entire alphabet while strutting like Mick Jagger on a chicken farm is not to be missed. The accent is annoying yes, but I defy you not to laugh when Cage tries to shoo the bat out of his apartment and manages to sound just like Keanu Reeves. The whole film is merely an exercise in madness and Cage fills the screen effortlessly with his hilariously damaged psyche.

The best part of the film for me is that Cage actually modeled his performance after Max Schreck’s from Nosferatu. While this seems a fitting tribute should this be an actual vampire film, the fact is that it only serves to emphasize Cage’s super crazypants screen presence. It’s not bad enough he looks for the weirdest possible method for delivering every line and has all the physical reserve of a hyperactive street mime, but we also get treated to his spot-on impression of a German Expressionistic Dracula? This does however yield the film’s most glorious absurd, hysterically nonsensical nugget. At one point, just before buying a pair of cheap, plastic vamp fangs, he runs down the street – hands at his sides, fingers extended like claws, eyes wider than any normal man’s – gleefully shrieking, “I’m a vampire! I’m a vampire! I’m a vampire!” He then goes home and fashions a coffin out of a leather couch. In the name of all that is good and pure, please don’t waste another moment of your life removed from the wonderful insanity of this film.

Junkfood Pairing: Cockroach Clusters

I kid you not, these exist. Apparently they were made in honor of all the disgusting candies the little brats from Harry Potter so enjoy, but they are the pitch-perfect treat for Vampire’s Kiss. While you enjoy the satisfying crunch of a cockroach cluster, bear in mind that not only did Nicolas Cage eat a honest-to-God cockroach in the film, but it took three takes to get it right. Mmmmm!

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Longtime FSR columnist, current host of FSR’s Junkfood Cinema podcast. President of the Austin Film Critics Association.