Xan Cassavetes Talks Kiss of the Damned With Sinful Celluloid

 Kiss of the Damned is available on VOD now! If you are ready for a totally unique vampire experience then this is the ideal Easter flick. The mastermind behind the film is the legendary Xan Cassavetes, daughter of John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands.We sat for a cup of coffee at Studio City’s horror headquarters, Jumpcut Cafe and discussed The 13 Question Marks of Horror…

1. You come from a great show biz family. Was film your first love?
I don’t know if I’d call them “Showbiz”. They were pretty Arts ‘N Crafty, not fancy, not into Hollywood, made their own movies, paid for them themselves so it was pretty mellow and not flashy, but No. Just like any other kid doesn’t want to do what their parents do because it seems “Lame” or “Parental”. I grew up in a really good era, I’m 47, when I was like 12 or 13, I was already starting to go to all the Punk Rock clubs. There were no age limits back then. It was a Mafia run state instead of a Police run state so it was a good time to be growing up. So I was obsessed with going to the Punk Rock clubs and seeing all the bands that would come from London or whatever. It was a SUPER great time to be 12 or 13. I stayed obsessed with music until finally I formed my own band which I was in for 10 years. After Punk Rock and Post Punk, then there was the Hip Hop movement and I was in New York for that, it was just like this incredibly magical time to be coming of age, starting a band and be in love with music. So no, I didn’t want to make movies at all until I started making movies for my band and for other people’s bands and then I still didn’t think of it. 
2. What finally brought you to making movies?
I had a kid and my way of getting peace was to go write and then I started writing screenplays and they were so weird and I was so attached to them that I thought “Well I’m gonna make these movies”. So it came full circle. My brother and my sister were directors too. I don’t think any of us started out thinking we were gonna jump into directing.
3. You’ve tooled around with shorts and a documentary. How different was it jumping into a horror feature? 
I made shorts but the first real thing I did that was a concentrated job was the Z Channel documentary, which was a big editing time. It was the best thing ever because it was a total film nerd boner. It was relatively simple because you know the guy it was about was Jerry this great guys every in his life was super brilliant and articulate with the best stories so is very simple and in a fabelistic sort of way. My own passion fueled the whole thing for me I was so into it. I didn’t know if anybody else would even care but they seem to care a little bit. 
4. How did that style change with Kiss of the Damned?
This movie was different because it was done really quickly and there were no rehearsals I was just very much instinct. I have three lead women who are French and that wasn’t bad, it was just challenging because their playing this melodrama with French accents at her like crazy, but to construct the atmosphere which kisses down to really build on atmosphere, and strength offsetting, and things like that. It was just so much more to play with that making a documentary.
5. Kiss of the Damned is your first feature. How did this film come together?
I was about to make this other movie which I have been trying to take for like five years which is the bigger budget for a psycho sexual love story that takes place in Mexico City. And I finally got that together I realized there was really out of touch with something I had written five years or and I want to just do something that I thought of and for the moment that was really immediate so although the other movie was bigger I was able to convince some of the investors to just give me a fraction of the money and go shoot this crazy French vampire movie and Connecticut had happened super quickly. I started writing over Thanksgiving and we were shooting by May. It was out of control. 
6. Can the film be interpreted different ways?
When it does happen and you don’t have time to think, your subconscious comes so into it. There is so many things in that movie there is a subconscious thing that you’re like Oh My God, I thought this was a vampire movie but so much of it is biographical, even philosophical, but you’ll never know that because it happened so fast.
7. I love the classic Euro Horror, especially Hammer Horror. What films influenced Kiss of the Damned?
I love H Hammer. I love Nosferatu by Werner Herzog. You do sound design the atmosphere it just the most creepy and fucked up vampire movie ever. I love Trouble Every Day, I love the Jean Rollin vampire movies, not as much as I love his other movies, but I love those. I just love the idea these beautiful sexy women in vampire movies, sorry. And as far as vampire movies I love Mask of Satan, I love Mario Bava, obviously when you seeKiss of the Damned and she you’ll see that I always admired his lighting. I’m obsessed with this Viscante as well as far as applying that something more sinister, just a lot of different things, not necessarily horror things, but using a lot of different things to create a vampire movie.
8. What can you tell me about the plot?
It’s about a lonely woman, vampire, living in this house that she staying in temporarily and this man she meets a video store, because they love movies, and fall instantly into an attraction and an identification. And its about the guy being drawn into this mystique of women. Starting with this woman but there are more and more women, bad ones, good ones, but this one that he’s after is a lovely person.  It’s also about her fear of her own power and that she could be discovered as a non-attractive soul. Which I think that women, particularly beautiful women, have this issue. Speaking strictly in the context of a vampire film, it’s really kind of about a guy who becomes obsessed with the mystique a woman without really knowing her and gets himself in a situation where he would voluntarily wants to be bitten. He actually brings it upon himself, forces the issue, because he wants to go the extra mile. Like someone might have a unprotected sex with a suspicious woman in that moment where they can justify all recklessness. She takes him in and is very afraid that he will actually know her and her insanity, and the chaos she brings and they try to have this love affair until the sister comes to stay in the house for a week, on her way to vampire rehab, and she is burned all these bridges, has nowhere to go and she kinda tips over this love story.
9. Is it effects heavy or more character driven?
There’s hardly any effects, it’s very old school. Share a few effects at the end but they’re very tiny. There’s one VFX’s shot, one killing scene. Everything seems carries them very naturally, very organically. 
10. Tell me about the search for Djuna. How did you settle on Joséphine de La Baume?
I producer had heard of for, she was an agent provocateur model and also she’s in a Pop band and there’s a consciousness of her in London and France. And then she showed me one picture of this girl’s face and I was like, what? It was just like that old school beautiful face like Sharon Tate. You know they don’t make those faces anymore. And I just thought, I have to meet this girl. We were skyping back and forth her I loved her personality and I love her attitude she was just one of those girls that’s my kind of girl who will do anything like live sees herself for maximum effect. Not like a prissy repressed bitchy bore. She’s not into her PR, she’s into her life as a performer somebody that embodies something she’s really good in the movie, she’s a good actress. 
11. There have been so many teeny bopper vampire incarnations over the past few years. Was it personally satisfying to bring the vampire some dignity again?
Because twilight was so huge and it’s in the consciousness people want to compare it to my movie and it’s like what? Twilight is great, I took my daughter to see it when it came out, it’s for children. Do people really want to sit around criticizing their mood is made for 13 year olds? As far as giving the vampire is back some dignity, one has always take the chance of taking away some dignity because it’s such a philosophical opportunity. Not just have “I’m in a sheer dress and I’m gonna bite you” that’s cool too, but the idea of everlasting life in the idea of beauty and the idea of loneliness, just the nightmare of eternal life and not being able to live a normal life is more interesting to me. There is a dignity in pain and that’s why I loved Nosferatu so much. Klaus Kinski is like get me the fuck out of here, my life sucks. When he bites people it’s a perversion that he does against his own will. There are vampire movies for children and vampire movies for adults and I don’t make films for children. 
12. This film has a lot of excitement buzzing around it. Is it daunting?
Some people really hate this movie, simply what I really hate it because it’s not gonna give them what they expect to get out of it and some people who will be excited by the fact that it didn’t give them what they expected to see out of it. Me personally, I find myself in this horror world right now because I made this movie but to me I’m really not into being conservative about the way I think her live or make a movie. I don’t want to hit all the official acceptable marks. While I’m excited that people want to see the movie I also know that there will be people I think would love it who will hate it and people they think will hate it who will end up loving it. 
13. What do you have lined up next?
I have three or four different projects that are all a variety of things. I wouldn’t say that there horror but they’re all in the super we are tricked out fantasy department is expedited I think. I like messing with the genre make it so weird that you will never recognize it. 

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