The Kiss is one of the weirdest Horror movies I've ever seen. However, rather than a weakness, the film's weirdness instead becomes one of its greatest strengths. The Kiss is easily the most underrated film of 2008 (Admittedly, a very low bar) and a surprisingly clever and imaginative tribute to B-Horror movies of the 60s and 70s. This is the kind of film that would fit perfectly in a marathon with Frankenstein's Bloody Terror and Dracula A.D 1972. If you go into the film with an appreciation for strangeness and a willingness to forgive a budget comprising of a nickel and a shoestring, you may have a lot fun.
With the minuscule budget of the film, there are bound to be some flaws, and I'll be the first to admit that The Kiss is not a masterpiece. The sound editing is admittedly terrible (With occasional sound effects that are downright cringe worthy; whoever decided to put a record scratch during a comedic moment seriously needs to rethink their creative decisions) and the visual direction and lighting feel amateurish and cheap. While the two lead performances are excellent, the young adult cast of actors around Lendon LeMille leave much to be desired in their performances. Angela Rachelle is especially bad as Carrie, overacting to a laughable degree near the end. The music is a mixed bag; sometimes, its use of thrash metal and Latin R&B is used quite effectively, with an atmospheric and romantically Gothic musical score to match. Other times, the music will feel out of place and cheap. And while the practical effects for most of the film have a real charm, the practical effects used for Santa Maria and Jeremy's vampire jaws at the ending are unacceptably hideous.
The set design for the film is wonderful. From Santa Maria's creepy estate to the barren wasteland of Hell, The Kiss does a great job capturing the spooky, Gothic feel of a 60s or 70s Horror B-Movie you'd catch on Svengoolie. In terms of its set design, The Kiss oozes good, old fashioned Halloween atmosphere from every pore. The film's black humor is absolutely wonderful, insane in the best possible ways. This is the kind of movie where we get a romantic montage set to the hero butchering adorable pets to feed his corpse girlfriend. If that sentence made you smile, you're gonna love the comedy in this film.
Lourdes Colon is absolutely perfect as the beautiful and wise vampire queen, Santa Maria, completely stealing the show. How she hasn't gotten more lead roles is beyond me. She brings such power, intelligence, confidence and elegance to the role. Her facial acting is outstanding and incredibly diverse; she can be seductive, furious, compassionate, strong, vulnerable. Colon's vocal delivery is equally as impressive; her alluring, purring cadence is as commanding as it is sexy, but she's not afraid to harden it in her more intense, angry scenes or show a softer and more open side in her more personal ones. She clearly possesses a great deal of emotional range as an actress and she gets to showcase it all as this wonderful character.
While Lendon LeMelle isn't quite as impressive as his co-star Colon, he still does a great job in his own right. He's able to play the role of an awkward, loser teen while never coming off as overly whiny. LeMelle has solid comedic timing as Jeremy and a convincing and charming cocky streak that's rare in these kind of characters. He was a wise casting decision from a physical standpoint as well; attractive enough to earn the desire of Maria and his classmates, but awkward enough to where we understand why girls initially ignore and mock him. LeMelle's acting in the final 15 minutes of the film are where he really shines, getting to showcase the character's loneliness and unconditional love for a woman he was never meant to be with. He's another actor who deserves better work. His chemistry with Lourdes Colon is also shockingly good, you can really feel the love and obsession these two have for each other in their longing stares and impassioned speech.
Valerie Richards (Who also co-produced the film) does a solid job in a smaller role as Jeremy's mother Katherine. She brings spunk, attitude, charm and charisma to what easily could have been a throwaway role. I wish we had gotten more screentime with her, I liked spending time with her character and I thought she had rather endearing chemistry with LeMelle.
What really makes The Kiss work, however, is the script. What Scott Madden has essentially given us is a coming-of-age romance of a centuries old vampire mentoring a wallflower teen from boyhood to adulthood. It's incredibly satisfying watching Jeremy bloom and prosper under the guidance of Santa Maria, who is just as enlightened and sagacious a mentor as she is caring and smitten a lover. The actual romance between the two is handled just as impressively. The Kiss really goes out of its way to avoid the cliches of this kind of film; Santa Maria and Jeremy behave like actual people would in their crazy circumstances, not like stock caricatures of a horror movie. They bicker, they butt heads, they get frustrated and jealous, but these are still 2 people who deeply love each other. By the time the film ended, I desperately wanted to see more of them together, begging for a sequel that will likely never happen at this point.
For me, The Kiss succeeded at what Trick r' Treat failed to do; creating an off-the-walls weird Horror comedy movie with charming atmosphere and a big imagination. Sure, the highly limited budget may have severely held the film back, but this is still a very impressive film in many aspects given its budgetary limitations. Scott Madden should be proud and I can only hope Lourdes Colon, Lendon LeMelle and Valerie Richards get more career opportunities to let their obvious talents shine.