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Vampire’s Kiss (1988), #81 out of 100

January 12, 2012

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Addressing Vampire’s Kiss without addressing the public perception of Nicolas Cage is impossible, not just because the actor’s performance drives the film so much, but because in its own way it represents the truth behind Cage’s infamy. A career of choosing ridiculous roles, especially in poor recent releases, has given the one-of-a-kind performer a label of being an ”overactor”, but those familiar with his more serious outings and earlier career recognize his untameable energy as the undeniably entertaining spectacle that it is. An acrobat with no need for a net, it’s no wonder a Nic Cage film is no longer a film of its own but one that orbits around his explosive demeanor. And no film, not even Werner Herzog’s delightful reboot of Bad Lieutenant, gives Cage the legroom and drive to really knock his special brand of maniacal dynamism than this overlooked ‘80s gem.

Cage interprets his character, Peter Loew, a maverick publishing executive, as an offball Manhattan-dwelling businessman whose nightlife in bars hunting for female companionship takes a turn for the unexpected when one night he beds a mysterious woman who leaves a pair of deep teeth punctures on his neck. Convinced she was a vampire whose effect is slowly turning him into one, despite a lack of evidence to suggest so, his dementia causes his normally unpleasant behavior to taken an even darker turn as he takes out his metropolitan angst out on his helpless Hispanic secretary and his unhelpful psychiatrist. His anger towards woman figures isn’t one of misogyny, but rather one of deep-seated loneliness, miserable in his bachelorhood in a world where others are able to find happiness.

In the film’s most dementedly hilarious yet distinctly harrowing sequence, Peter, at his lowest moment, descends into a quietly over-the-top fantasy where his deepest desires come true, yet eventually transforms into an insane expression of isolated disappointment. Conditioned so much by the impersonal reality that has driven him to such lengths, he can’t even bring himself to make pretend to find happiness. It’s just as well for us, his desperate delusions that fuel the woe behind his eccentric behavior make for a hysterical splendor that in its darkest moments reflect the alienation some city dwellers can’t help but experience in a quest for love. It’s an uncanny balancing act that only a fearlessly unprecedented actor like Nic Cage could possibly pull off.

From → Top 100

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