Bad fangs happen on Wall Street as Adam Hofmeister considers Vampire’s Kiss in detail.
Running time: 103 minutes
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Marie Conchita Alonso, Jennifer Beals, Elizabeth Ashley
Plot: Peter Loew (Cage) is a successful literary agent in New York who slowly begins to believe he is turning into a vampire after a one night stand with Rachel (Beals). His mental collapse accompanies his wretched abuse of his secretary (Alonso) and his wild rants to his psychiatrist (Ashley).
Vampire’s Kiss is a film that finds its greatest strength in exhibiting the bizarre performance from the (always entrancing) Cage as its fundamental thesis: madness is an illness, and all illnesses have a source. The source of the madness in Kiss is the system in which Cage’s literary agent works; the greed and excess of the 1980s and the pressure to sustain it drives Peter Loew to believe he is a vampire. And, if you know your folklore, and not your Stephanie Meyer, a vampire is a creature that in order to prolong its life must feed off of the blood of others. Loew becomes the vampiric system that he is trapped in.
When a film revolves around a single performance as its purpose, it can often lose out on fleshing out any other characters, or it resorts to Purple Rain extreme close ups of the egomaniacal lead, but that is not so of Kiss. It is a genius stroke because by placing the focus on the protagonist it blurs the perception of reality; how many of the people that Loew encounters are actually real?
Cage dominates the screen because his character is compelled to do; Loew is the epitome of the vulgar arrogance and ruthless inhumanity of the Wall Street of the 1980s and, hell, even now. Loew adopts a faux upper class accent when he’s sane (which, let’s be honest, makes him more detestable) and creeps and claws like Nosferatu when he’s succumbed to his ailment. It is nothing less than pure joy to watch, even if at first you are uncertain of what in the blue hell you are witnessing. It makes you wish Wall Street was that fun.
However, the rest of the cast do not fade into the background to be chewed by Cage’s hilarious plastic fangs. His horrid bullying of his secretary Alva remains engaging because of the extremities to which it reaches, and the way that she attempts to avenge her wrong doings. The microcosm of her struggle against her parasitic employer would be one to be admired, were the events not so soul crushing as to render this impossible.
Though their appearances are brief, some would say wasted, Beals and Ashley are vital, though it is interesting to note how opposite their roles are. One fuels the mental anarchy of Loew’s delusions of vampirism whilst the other attempts to free him from it. One, a sultry vampire (or is she?) that anaesthetises him to rebelling and the other attempting to mend a man who can’t be repaired. It could be argued that they are the scales that fail to balance Loew and because of the strain of two polar opposites pulling, he snaps. The illness is created by the environment in which he builds himself into: once the last stone has been set there is no way out.
Roger Ebert once described Cage as looking like a man whose head was about to explode. I disagree. In Kiss he looks more like one of the melting Nazis from Raiders of the Lost Ark: you can’t help but root for Moses, or in this case, delusions of Bram Stoker. Loew is a fundamentally horrible man, toadying to his bosses, attacking his employees, draining them, feeding the greed and hatred that his world demands. If anything, Loew was a vampire all along.