‘Vampire’s Kiss’ film review
By Craig Allan, Staff Writer
Cage goes all out in a bonkers performance that has to be seen to be believed.
Since the dawn of movies just before the turn of the 19th century, there have been actors that have cemented themselves as legends. Some, like Laurence Olivier and Katharine Hepburn are lauded for their great acting abilities. Others, like James Dean and Marilyn Monroe, are legends because their careers ended too soon. Then there are actors who go down as legends not because of the movies they did, or the awards they won, but for their utterly unique acting style that transcends what is good and bad—that is the space that Nicolas Cage occupies.
Cage has cemented himself as one of the greatest actors of all time—not because of the awards he has won, but because of his manic style. His raw, unhinged performances have become the stuff of legends. Nowhere is this style more apparent than in the 1988 movie Vampire’s Kiss (VK), where Cage goes all out in a bonkers performance that has to be seen to be believed.
The film (of which I did not know the plot of entirely) is about a man who believes he has been bitten by a vampire Rachel (Jennifer Beals), and begins to freak out at his predicament. I had always been aware of it due to moments from the film entering pop culture, like Cage’s wily eyed staring meme, or his passionate reciting of the alphabet, but I had never seen the whole film. With it being shown as part of The Rio’s unofficial “Nick International Film Festival,” I could not miss my chance to see it, and boy, is it something.
Cage’s role of Peter Loew is all over the place in this film. From berating his secretary Alva (María Conchita Alonso) on her inability to find a lost contract, to running around the streets of New York screaming “I’m a vampire! I’m a vampire! I’m a vampire!”—to having a hallucinated therapy session in front of a building—Cage is so crazy in this film it makes you wonder how he and the people behind this film were ever able to get it made.
The funniest scenes are when Loew is screaming at his therapist (Elizabeth Ashley) about how ridiculous it is to misfile something when everything is in alphabetical order and proceeding to recite the alphabet to his therapist. When his therapist tells him that she cannot possibly tell him who could have misplaced the file at his work, Loew responds with “Hah! And you call yourself a psychiatrist.” Another laugh out loud scene is when Loew is in a store to buy glass vampire fangs, but realizes he cannot afford it, leading him to buy plastic “cheapie” ones. He puts the teeth in his mouth, with an over the top music cue added, and Loew runs around New York for a whole day with plastic vampire teeth in his mouth.
The film does have moments of uncomfortable humour if it can be called that. For one, Loew’s berating of his secretary gets very unsettling after a while, especially when it is suggested that he rapes her in the company storage room. Loew says he did this, but we cannot be sure, since it is not shown and it may be a falsification due to his increasing insanity, but either way, the act is the only moment that makes a viewer feel uncomfortable. His murder of a woman of whom he tries to suck the blood of is also a bit unnerving.
Had Nicolas Cage not become a notable movie star, it is possible that this film could have ended up just like Tommy Wiseau’s The Room. An arthouse cinema classic in the cathedral of all-time bad movies. But since Cage has become the manic star that he is today, VK can be looked back as the film that gave Cage his acting voice. Cage has even drawn a parallel between this film and one of his most well know films Face/Off saying that VK was like his acting laboratory for his future big budget performances. VK is a confusing, bewildering watch, but it certainly isn’t boring, much like Nicolas Cage himself.