Monday, May 10, 2010

Vampire's Kiss (1988)

Nicolas Cage is a conundrum. Similar to Gary Busey's manic psychosis, Cage has a love hate relationship with acting. He never adequately strikes a balance between extremes; either mumbily sleepwalking through a performance (The Weather Man, Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Matchstick Men) or going so bombastically overboard (Face/Off, The Wicker Man, Bad Lieutenant) as to render the entire project comical, regardless of direction, writing, intent or supporting roles.

1988's Vampire's Kiss falls into the latter category. Cage plays New York literary agent Peter Loew, a Sherman McCoy-like Manhattan asshole unfulfilled by constant clubbing and anonymous hookups with beautiful women. During one of these hookups a bat flies into Loew's luxurious high-rise apartment. From this moment on Loew undergoes a drastic transformation. He is sensitive to sunlight, becomes increasingly erratic, and fashions a makeshift coffin by flipping his leather couch upside down. Loew says it best when he runs down the street screaming "I'M A VAMPIRE" at the top of his lungs.

"I am a Vampire!"HOW'D IT GET BIT? HOW'D IT GET BIT?

Nicolas Cage turns in a hyperbolically melodramatic performance. His supporting cast portrays normal people. Loew is a cartoon character: jumping on tables, terrorizing the new secretary Alva (Maria Conchita Alonso) for seemingly no reason, eating a cockroach (not normally associated with vampirism), and wavering in and out of a ridiculous British accent worthy of the hammiest of Midwest regional dinner theater.

Everyone either ignores Loew's descending insanity or tries to address it rationally. His psychiatrist Dr. Glaser (Elizabeth Ashley) handles him like a petulant child. His co-workers treat his constant harassment of Alva as good-natured fraternity hazing. All external circumstances make his vampiric turn as effortless as possible. Even the most detestable of wealthy white males are given carte blanche, no matter how psychotic, irrational, and homicidal their actions.

Aroused by bats? Hello summer home in Maine!

However, things are not as clear cut as one might think. Loew is not turning into a vampire. He is actually slowly turning insane. Those expecting Turn of the Screw-esque ambiguity will be sorely disappointed. It is clear from the first act that Loew is insane. His post-bat turning point comes when he meets new exciting sexual parter Rachel (Jennifer Beals), a gorgeous vixen with hairy armpits and mysterious disposition. She bites Loew on the neck, which instigates his transformation. From the night after their first encounter Loew is shown serving tea to no one, making it 100% clear she is a manifestation of his unconscious.

The scripting is about as subtle as the performance.

Vampire's Kiss never fully explains the reasons for Loew's insanity. One popular theory is that he contracted rabies from the bat. This makes a lot of sense, and would certainly explain much of his behavior. Some of the symptoms of furious rabies include:

Nic Cage rabies part 1
Nic Cage rabies part 2

Nic Cage rabies part 3

Nic Cage rabies part 4
Increased sensitivity to light

Nic Cage rabies part 5
Delusions and hallucinations

Nic Cage rabies part 6
For those of you who enjoy manic Nicolas Cage, Vampire's Kiss is the creme de la creme. His frenetic rapacious scene-chewing makes it impossible to separate the film from his performance. If you'd like to see Nicolas Cage descending into madness for 103 minutes, this is the film for you.

Quotable quotes:

Jackie: (at the modern art museum) Well do you like it?
Peter: I gotta take a piss.

Peter: I guess I was pretty horny. Pretty, uh, keyed up from being with the girl before. I was drunk too. That was it. I'd had a little to drink. I was a little drunk. Plus I was horny.

Peter: (failing to see his reflection) Oh God! Where am I?
Boss: You're in the goddamn crapper Loew and I'm trying to take a dump so either shut up and leave your goddamn acting lessons for home or go back to the LADIES ROOM.

Peter: I almost forgot.
Dr. Glaser: Yes Peter?
Peter: Well I did rape someone a couple nights ago. A girl at the office. I just lost control.
Dr. Glaser: Just a little id released. No need to worry.

Arbitrary rating system:


Peter celebrates his transformation.

Peter gives a lesson in collation.


  1. and you call yourself a psychiatrist...


    This film is an underrated gem. Love the ambigious plot and the performance of Cage.