Picks and Pans Review: Vampire's Kiss

updated 06/12/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/12/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Nicolas Cage, Jennifer Beals

It says something that the most interesting question about this movie is whether Cage really ate that cockroach he seems to be gobbling down in one scene. (He did.)

First-time co-producer Barbara Zitwer has described the film as "gutsy, amusing, alarming, shocking, distressing, disorienting, a powerful piece." But "ugly and pointless" would have sufficed. Director Robert Bierman, in his first theatrical feature, and writer Joe (After Hours) Minion mix ideas and scenes incoherently, like cooks making a stew by dumping all the contents of their refrigerator into it.

Cage, a minor executive of a literary agency, is at times playful and likable, at times a sadistic beast, mercilessly nagging a secretary (Maria Conchita Alonso) over a trivial lost document and eventually raping and beating her. He also decides he is a vampire after he picks up a woman, Jennifer Beals, who bites him on the neck. It's unclear whether, in the movie's feeble consciousness, either one is really a vampire. Beals has fangs and appears mysteriously, but the audience can see Cage's reflection in a mirror even when he thinks he can't.

As chaotic as this description sounds, it suggests much more philosophical direction than the movie reflects.

A few bits are funny. In one scene, for instance, Alonso shoots Cage with a gun that, unbeknownst to him, contains blanks, thereby feeding his vampire illusion. But overall the conceit seems to be that a film full of anarchy—boring and/or repulsive anarchy, at that—is by definition an insight into the real world. Mull that over next time you're munching a cockroach or two. (R)

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