BY MICHAEL GRANT
The birth of a meme is truly a beautiful thing. 1988’s Vampire’s Kiss is a film most people have seen at least something from – even if it is just the infamous meme. I think my first exposure to this film was a compilation video someone had made, a best-of Nick Cage moments video from all his movies. It included the alphabet scene and the iconic close-up shot of Nick Cage’s face as he tells his secretary how terrible her job is.
Once at a freshmen seminar class, someone in the class wore a t-shirt with that face all over it, which caused the teacher to burst out laughing. It was actually the most interesting thing to ever happen in that class.
The film is about an office executive living in 1980s New York City, played by Nick Cage (doing a weird accent), who is under the delusion that he is turning into a vampire. Throughout the film, he attends therapy sessions and pretty much harasses his secretary (played by Maria Conchita Alonso) for a good portion of the film, by making her go on a fruitless search to find some obscure file.
If the filmmakers were trying to make the audience feel sorry for Cage’s character, they failed. Cage’s character is pretty unlikable throughout the film. Hardly sympathetic at all. Perhaps had they shown that he was a somewhat decent person at first, you’d feel more sorry for him.
As it stands, I (along with probably most audience members) felt more sympathy for the poor secretary. The rest of the film is eh, basically. You follow this unlikeable guy, as he goes crazier and crazier, and it culminates in a way that I won’t spoil (watch the film if you want), but it is satisfying to see this unlikeable waste of space get some form of comeuppance.
Memes aside, the most impressive thing about this film is Nick Cage’s performance. As unlikable as the character is, he absolutely immerses himself in this role. This was an early role for Cage, so I get the feeling he wanted to do his best to get out there. Perhaps, according to the filmmakers too much.
At one point during the main character’s mental breakdown, he is seen walking through traffic on the street. This is apparently something that Cage really did. Walk through actual traffic wailing like a lunatic. This was a low-budget $2 million dollar film, so they couldn’t afford too many extras (especially since this was shot in New York City, an infamously expensive shooting location).
Another scene involves Cage with a wooden stake, demanding some random streetwalkers to try and kill him. Again, these weren’t extras – they were real people who had no idea they were being filmed. I wonder if they ever found out they were in this film. He also ate an actual cockroach. Eww.
As with The Giant Claw’s awful bird puppet saving that film from total obscurity, I’d argue that Cage’s performance similarly saved this film.
The filmmakers apparently originally considered (according to the trivia page on IMDB, which I’m sure is always factual) Arnold Schwarzenegger, John Travolta, and Sylvester Stallone. No. None of those would’ve worked. Only one person could’ve played this character, and that man is Nick Cage. He makes this otherwise forgettable film worth seeing at least once. Or at least watching a best-of compilation.
Overall, it’s a mediocre film that bombed at the box office but ended up becoming a meme. At least it’s good to know that Cage’s performance is being recognized for something, and maybe it led to him being cast as Dracula in the upcoming Renfield film, set to release in April 2023. In any case, stay tuned for more weird films in the future…
If you have any films suggestions to torture me with, please email me here: firstname.lastname@example.org
By the way, Nick Cage is a part of the filmmaking-oriented Coppola family (his real name is Nicholas Coppola). In 1988 (the same year this film came out), Nick’s brother Chrisopher directed his own vampire movie, Dracula’s Window. Four years later, their uncle Francis Ford Coppola directed Bram Stoker’s Dracula. What does any of this mean? Beats the hell out of me, but it makes for an interesting fun fact.