Vampire's Kiss (1988)

Nicolas Cage is known for making many films just because he needed the money.  He is also known for taking on challenging roles and, in many cases, taking his acting to outrageous extremes.  In the 1980s he still believed in method acting - something he abandoned while working with David Lynch on Wild at Heart - and that led to some interesting performances.  Perhaps the strangest was in Vampire's Kiss.

Peter Loew (Cage) is a literary agent in New York.  He is constantly jumping for one woman to another hoping to find true love.  The stress of this, and his job, has led him to seek psychiatric help from Dr. Glaser (Elizabeth Ashley).  One night after meeting taking home a woman named Jackie (Kasi Lemmons) a bat flies into his apartment which, he admits to Dr. Glaser, turned him on for some reason.

At a party not long after he meets a woman named Rachel (Jennifer Beals) who turns out to be a vampire.  She bites him and soon he feels that he is having the usual effects of turning into a vampire: aversion to sunlight, unable to see his reflection in a mirror and the need to drink blood.  As his new vampiric personality takes over he becomes increasingly hostile toward his secretary Alva (Maria Conchito Alonso).  His berating and obsession over a missing contract turn into physical assaults and, afterward, a break with reality as his new personality takes over.

Nicolas Cage went all out for this role, wandering the streets of Manhattan and frightening the locals.  Many of the scenes from the movie have become memes and his method acting led to him eating a live cockroach for effect.  There is a point to all the madness, but that doesn't mean it's not difficult to watch.  The portrayal of Loew is so over the top that, until it becomes clear at the end the point that director Robert Bierman and writer Joseph Minion are trying to get across, the movie can at times be unwatchable.

Bierman is most to blame.  I wouldn't say Minion's script is perfect, but Bierman is at times both vague and heavy-handed in showing Loew's breakdown.  Cage has explained a number of reasons for the things Loew does, from the fake pretentious accent to the reasons for his downfall, but it should not be up to Cage to tell us.  It is up to the director to tell the story with through his lens and by making sure his actors work toward that goal.  Despite Cage's antics, a great supporting role by Maria Conchita Alonzo and Elizabeth Ashley's excellent comic timing, he fails at this.  What the movie needed in places was subtlety even if the ending was meant to be obvious rather than ambiguous.  

The story would have been more interesting if handled by someone with a little more skill.  It would have also benefited from a director who was willing to tell Cage that certain things are unnecessary.  It is obvious that some point this project got out of everyone's control, even if Cage considers this one of the favorite movies he has been in.  It is an interesting movie to watch, but not an enjoyable one by any standard. 

Vampire's Kiss (1988)
Time: 103 minutes
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Maria Conchita Alonso, Jennifer Beals
Director: Robert Bierman 



  1. The plot makes me think of American Psycho only if he thought he was turning into a vampire. I'm not sure if this was better or worse than his campy scene-chewing as Dracula in Renfield. I know a lot of people disagree but I thought that movie would have been better with someone a little more subtle in that role.

    1. Haven't seen "Renfield" yet, but I assumed he would pretty much be doing the same thing as he did in this movie - only as a (spoiler) real vampire.


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