Is Vampire’s Kiss the Cagiest of Nicholas Cage movies? Many would say
I have no clue, largely because the movie was impossible to find for a long time. For those of us who have watched it — it’s finally available on Shudder, so you can, too — it’s immediately clear that this is where it all started. This is proto-Cage, 1989, way over the top, a performance perfectly and bizarrely suited for the role. Cage has name-checked Vampire’s Kiss as one of his best performances, and I tend to agree.
The plot itself is fairly out there, too. Bringing a lady home to his apartment, playboy literary agent Peter Loew (Cage) is bit by a bat who inexplicably is in the living room. Soon after, things start falling apart. Loew sees people who are not there and is convinced he is having a romantic relationship with a vampire. Gradually, he turns into a blood-sucking creature himself. (He’s also an abusive boss, which may or may not be neither here nor there in the bigger picture of things. It is, if nothing else, the source of a number of bonkers scenes, including Cage breaking into a wild rendition of
The Alphabet Song.)
Say what you want about Cage’s intensity; it is fascinating to watch. His character has a
learned accent, one not based on location, but rather what Cage imagines an intellectual sounds like. (It’s based on his father, much like his more subtle take in Color Out of Space.) It comes and goes, the accent, which is the actor’s choice: it’s heavier when Loew wants to impress people; otherwise it’s barely there.
I can only assume a larger portion of what occurs on screen is Cage’s interpretation of the character, more than the script or direction. For example, as he turns into a vampire, Loew feels an intense burn whenever he sees himself in a mirror. This is not a thing with vampires. Crosses burn vampires. Mirrors merely don’t show their reflections.
There are subtle cues that Cage runs with. For example, when the bat bites him, Nosferatu is playing on the TV. Through the last third of the movie, Cage’s movements mimic Graf Orlok’s, down to the most subtle of facial expression. It’s a bizarre choice, yet for some undefinable reason, it works.
As does the movie. It works. It shouldn’t, but it does. Exactly what it’s about is hard to say, but that it is related to Loew being a man who cannot make human connections seems reasonable. Whenever he gets close to another person, his insanity flares up.
I like the film. I’m not talking about an ironic, Gen-X, detached type of like. Vampire’s Kiss is a weird movie with a weird performance from Cage — for god’s sake, he eats a (real) cockroach — and it’s entertaining throughout.
These days, the movie is classified as a
comedy by the distributor. That is entirely misleading. It’s OK to laugh with Cage’s performance, I’m sure he is aware of how out there he is, but what he does is quite extraordinary. Vampire’s Kiss stays with you and is the first step in Cage’s wild and wacky history. Remember: this is a guy who won an Academy Award.
Psycho, American style
If you feel there are similarities between Vampire’s Kiss and American Psycho, then you are indeed correct. Christian Bale based his performance on Nic Cage’s.
Letterboxd summary: A publishing executive is visited and bitten by a vampire and starts exhibiting erratic behavior. He pushes his secretary to extremes as he tries to come to terms with his affliction. The vampire continues to visit and drink his blood, and as his madness deepens, it begins to look as if some of the events he's experiencing may be hallucinations.
Ratings from around the web
|One Star Classics||5/6|