Vampire’s Kiss (1988) 3rd party review

Admin Note: This review is not written by me. It is written by a user who goes by the name The Giant Claw. These are his opinions alone, and his review alone. The only thing I contributed was putting up the images, and doing some underlining and quote formatting. Enjoy an alternate opinion.

The Giant Claw’s rating: 5 / 5

Nicolas Cage is one of the most fascinating characters in all of Hollywood, with a cinematic journey that scholars will be studying for centuries after his death. Being the nephew of one of cinema’s greatest directors, Francis Ford Coppola, probably helped a little bit when finding work. After debuting in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Cage quickly became a major player in Hollywood. Before the 80’s ended he starred in hits such as Valley Girl, Raising Arizona, and Moonstruck. Then in 1996, he beat out the likes of Anthony Hopkins and Sean Penn to win the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in Leaving Las Vegas and that’s when things really took off for him. From 1996-1998 Cage would star in a string of four box office hits: The Rock, Con Air, Face/Off, and City of Angels

During this hot streak period there was that business about the infamous Superman Lives, a disastrous attempt at reviving the DC superhero which has become a popular almost mythical tale told by film and comic book nerds alike. I can’t properly detail the production history of this movie, so I’d highly recommend checking out the documentary The Death of “Superman Lives”: What Happened? But the condensed version is that Jon Peters (An American Werewolf in London, Caddyshack, The Color Purple, Rain Man) would produce a Superman film helmed by Tim Burton, written by Kevin Smith (who at that time had only written three films of lesser calibers), and would star Nicolas Cage in the title role. Personally, if this thing had materialized, good or bad, it would have been one hell of a ride. The humorous small scale writing style of Kevin Smith mixed with the unorthodox gothic direction of Tim Burton, and featuring the crazed unhinged magic of Nicolas “The Rock” Cage.

The beginning of the 21st century would only add to Cage’s fascinating and strange legacy. While he didn’t star in many box office successes, he did have some highlights that brought in critical praise such as Matchstick Men, Lord of War, and Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. This was also the start of two attempted franchises that Mr. Cage-o-matic led in Ghost Rider and National Treasure. He was even nominated for his second Academy Award for his dual performance in Adaptation. The Wicker Man was also in that pile somewhere, but that’s for another review. 

At one point Nicolas Cage was seen as one of the most successful, wealthiest, and powerful men in Hollywood. Then the end of the 2000’s hit and Nic “Bee Repository” Cage found himself in some hot water to say the least. To quote an article from marketwatch.com:

“Cage’s extravagant purchases included 15 residences — a Newport Beach, Ca., waterfront home for $25 million, and two European castles worth a collective $12.3 million were among them — as well as a deserted island in the Bahamas for $3 million. Other seemingly ill-advised buys: A collection of shrunken pygmy heads, a Lamborghini owned by the late shah of Iran for $450,000, a pet octopus for $150,000, and a seven-million-year-old dinosaur skull for $276,000. All told, that spending spree left Cage, the star of the “National Treasure” film franchise, facing foreclosure on several properties, and owing $6.3 million in property taxes to the IRS.

That’s right, Nickel-less Cage managed to blow his entire fortune of over one hundred million dollars and had to file for bankruptcy. Just a quick side note, one expenditure that the article didn’t mention was when he bought The LaLaurie Mansion, a haunted house in New Orleans, so he could write a horror novel.

So by this point, the only option available to him was to use the star power his name still held to accept any role that came his way. This led to a streak of low budget forgotten action flicks for the majority of the following decade. So unless you are the most die-hard Nicolas Coppola fan you’ve likely never heard of 99% of the films he made from 2010-2017. Sure, there were some diamonds in the rough, such as Kick-Ass, Joe, and The Croods, but there’s a reason they’re called diamonds in the rough. Because in order to find these gems you’ll need to dig through the likes of Dying of the Light, Pay the Ghost, USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage, and Dog Eat Dog. It got so bad that these turds barely got theatrical releases and were mostly dumped on-demand. 

But the truly unbelievable part of this era in this Energizer Bunny’s career is the volume of films he made. Now it wasn’t unheard of for Cage to do multiple motion pictures in a year (from 2005-2007 he appeared in 10 films), but at the start of the past decade the volume of flicks he was popping up in reached unholy and probably unhealthy levels. From 2000-2009, Nic Cage was in 24 films. From 2010-2019, he was in 48 films, including 15 in 2018 and 2019 combined. Meaning that in the span of ten years The Cagemister was in an average of around 5 movies a year. 

And it was at this point that No Sane Nick Cage became less of a star and more of a meme. In fact, before his downfall, The Wicker Cage was already starting to become a popular meme machine as far back as the early years of YouTube. I think anyone who has been on the internet for a while knows the infamous “Not the bees!” scene from The Wicker Man, You Don’t Say (taken from Vampire’s Kiss), the scene of Cage’s hair blowing in the wind from Con Air, and many other popular meme templates. There was even a popular comedy song called Nicolas Cage Wants Cake (taken from The Family Man) by Harry Partridge. Then there were the numerous parodies of Cage’s acting style and career path, such as SNL’s “Get in the Cage w/ Nicolas Cage” segments, and CollegeHumor’s “Nicolas Cage’s Agent.” So while Thicc Nicc’s career as a film star was slowly withering away his career as an internet celebrity was strangely on the rise. 

#the wicker man from Animus Rox

And normally this would be the point where most actors who’ve fallen on hard times would fade into obscurity, only being brought up when discussing their glory days or their demise. I mean that many bombs over a long stretch of time would be a death sentence for any actor who appeared past his prime. But this is Nic Cage we are talking about. This man’s career refuses to die. And like a phoenix rising from the ashes Nic Cage 2: Electric Boogaloo made a massive comeback in 2018. The first sign that Cageus Christ had risen was the homage to David Cronenberg and eighties horror movies with Mandy. Mandy utilized the beauty of letting Cage the Rage flourish on-screen to magnificent results. Because the only way to truly get a solid Nic Cage performance is to let the man unleash his raving lunatic side. It’s a beautiful thing to watch Cage deprive an old lady of her oxygen while threatening her caretaker at gunpoint, or punching a woman in the face while wearing a bear suit, or driving out of hell in a 1963 Buick Riviera, or, in Mandy’s case, chainsaw dueling a crazy cult member. 

#mandy from We have such sights to show you!

And it was Mandy that kickstarted a genius new path for Cagenstein’s career. Filmmakers were building on the meme of Nicolas Uncaged, the crazed shrieking artist of mugging, and creating stories that fit his acting style. And from there, Cageasaurus Rex saw a bit of a rise in his stock. He had roles in the wildly successful Teen Titans GO! To the Movies (where he finally got to play Superman) and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, he starred in the indie hit The Color Out of Space, he returned to reprise his role in The Croods with A New Age, and recently he starred in the Chuck E. Cheese nightmare fuel that is Willy’s Wonderland. And the rise in Cage-themed unconventional horror movies doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. Later this year Prisoners of the Ghostland, a film wherein Cage Before Beauty plays a criminal who has to set out on a journey through a supernatural universe to save a Governor’s daughter, is set to be released later this year. 

But out of his entire mess of a career and life, Nicolas (actual middle name Kim) Cage has said that his favorite work was an early box office flop called Vampire’s Kiss. He stated “I was very happy with ‘Vampire’s Kiss,’ which in my opinion was almost like an independent laboratory to start realizing some of my more expressionistic dreams with film performance.” And I can’t think of a better way of describing Cage’s performance in this.

The whole reason I wanted to watch Vampire’s Kiss was because of a compilation of Nic Cage losing his mind on-screen, which is the whole reason to watch a Nickelodeon Cage movie. And in Vampire’s Kiss, Cage the Mage plays a white-collar New York businessman who, in the span of 103 minutes, chases a co-worker into the women’s bathroom, threatens to rape her, tries to commit suicide with a gun filled with blanks, eats a cockroach, runs through the streets shouting “I’m a vampire!”, wears a pair of cheap plastic fangs, sleeps in a makeshift coffin, and fights off a bat. And that doesn’t even come close to covering the onslaught of batshit insanity this film has to offer. 

Nicolas Cage Vampire GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

And yet, while I was hoping for a fun horror/comedy where Nic “Rat in a” Cage hams it up as a vampire, I got something radically different that completely blew my mind. In a surprising twist, Vampire’s Kiss isn’t a vampire movie at all. Instead, it uses vampirism as a metaphor for love and addiction. The hunger for love and desire and the emptiness that cheap one-night-stands invoke are displayed in the form of the hunger and romanticism of being a creature of the night. The drive for romance masked as a purely sexual relationship causes Peter Loew to seep further and further into madness. He finds love in the right place and abandons it for the forbidden fruit that is a young vampiric vixen. And slowly his dependency on her affection drives him insane and he truly believes he’s becoming a bloodsucker. He has a fear of mirrors and the sun, he’s no longer driven by success, but by passion, and he struggles with understanding who he really is. He no longer hungers for regular food, but the blood of the living. He craves this depraved lifestyle so much, but it all comes crashing down on him when it’s revealed that he was being used for selfish gains. And it’s this clever spin on the classic myth of vampires that makes Vampire’s Kiss a darkly hilarious and depressing film.

Obviously being the star and focal point of the film, Cagemusha was able to bring the full range of his acting ability to this role, and it’s impressive watching him turn from a smug, fakely charming businessman to a deranged maniac. Even his British accent was intentionally bad and all Cage. He thought his character would put on an accent to sound more intelligent, which adds to the hilarity of his character. But it’s the sadness underneath the comedy that really drives home this story and his performance. This is a man who deeply wants to be loved and accepted, and yet he’s constantly unsatisfied with life. He goes to therapy to try to work out his problems, puts on an act to feel admiration from his peers, and strives for success, but ultimately he still feels empty inside. So he creates this exciting lifestyle to fill the endless void in his soul. Something wild to give purpose to his dull existence. And it’s this struggle for acceptance and descent into heartbreak that elevates Vampire’s Kiss into a beautifully relatable film.

And in my opinion, Vampire’s Kiss also feels like a metaphor for substance abuse. In the beginning, Peter Loew is an average, collected, and composed individual. He has a neatly kept apartment, steady job, and a good personality. But once he gets a taste for this new drug he spirals out of control and has manic episodes where he questions what he’s become. He verbally abuses and mentally tortures a fellow employee when he can’t get his fix, and by the end, now left alone with a shattered reputation and no hope, he’s driven to kill himself. There’s a reason this was labeled as a “dark comedy.”

Maybe it’s because I wasn’t expecting much from Vampire’s Kiss, and therefore my praise for it is more glowing than it would have been if I knew what I was getting into, but I was thoroughly impressed with every aspect of this film. Out of the thousands of vampire stories that have been produced since the dawn of filmmaking, Vampire’s Kiss stands out as one of the best because of writer Joseph Minion’s talent for going against the grain and crafting a vampire piece that on the surface doesn’t appear to add anything new to the genre, but as the story progresses we begin to realize that we’ve been fooled into thinking that this was even a vampire movie to begin with. And Nic Cage’s performance elevates the material because of his ability to make any situation funny, intentionally or not. THAT is the genius of Vampire’s Kiss.

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