Vampire's Kiss

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Vampire's Kiss
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRobert Bierman
Written byJoseph Minion
Produced by
CinematographyStefan Czapsky
Edited byAngus Newton
Music byColin Towns
Distributed byHemdale Film Corporation
Release date
  • June 2, 1989 (1989-06-02)
Running time
103 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$2 million[1]
Box office$725,131[2]

Vampire's Kiss is a 1989 American black comedy horror film[2] directed by Robert Bierman and written by Joseph Minion. Starring Nicolas Cage, María Conchita Alonso, Jennifer Beals, and Elizabeth Ashley, the film tells the story of a literary agent who falls in love with a vampire. It was a box office and critical failure but the film later developed a cult following largely due to Cage's "scorched-earth acting",[3] which has become a source of many Internet memes.[1]


Peter Loew is a driven literary agent and a narcissistic and greedy yuppie; he works all day and club hops at night, with little in his life but alcohol, cocaine, one-night stands with numerous women, and the pursuit of money and supposed prestige. However, he is slowly going insane and sees a therapist frequently. During these sessions, his declining mental health becomes clear through a series of increasingly bizarre rants which eventually begin to scare the psychiatrist.

After taking home a girl named Jackie from a club, a bat flies in through Peter's window, scaring them both. At his next session he mentions to his therapist that the struggle with the bat aroused him. While visiting an art museum with Jackie the next day, he ditches her, and she later leaves an angry message on his phone.

Peter meets Rachel at a night club, and seemingly takes her home. As they make love, she pins him down, exposing vampire fangs, and bites him on the neck. The following morning, Peter is seen with an uninjured neck, serving coffee and making conversation with a non-existent Rachel, casting doubt on the reality of the previous night's events.

Peter cuts his neck shaving and applies a bandage to the spot, thereafter believing it to be the location of his vampire bite. He soon believes that he is turning into a vampire. He fails to see his reflection in mirrors and wears dark sunglasses indoors. When his fangs fail to develop, he purchases a pair of cheap plastic novelty fangs. All the while, he has delusions of Rachel visiting him nightly to feed on his blood. Shortly after, Peter experiences severe mood swings and calls Jackie back apologetically, asking to meet her at a bar. As he is about to leave, a jealous Rachel appears and beckons him back inside. A dejected Jackie eventually leaves the bar and leaves an angry note on his door asking him to leave her alone.

Peter constantly torments a secretary working at his office named Alva Restrepo, typically by forcing her to search through an enormous paper file for a contract. When Alva fails to find the contract, Peter at first browbeats and humiliates her, then visits her at home and tricks her into returning to work, and finally attacks and attempts to bite her at the workplace after hours. She pulls out a gun, and Peter begs her to shoot him. Since it is only loaded with blanks, she fires at the floor to scare him off. He eventually overpowers her, ripping her shirt open, pinning her to the floor as he attempts to bite her neck, while hallucinating that she is Rachel. Afterwards, overcome by despair, he takes the gun and fires it into his mouth, but is not harmed, attributing it to his supposed transformation.

Thinking he is a vampire, Peter goes out to a club wearing his novelty fangs and moves around erratically like the character Orlok from the film Nosferatu with a crazed look in his eyes. He begins to seduce a woman, but when he gets too grabby she slaps him, making Peter even more unhinged. He overpowers her and bites her neck, having taken out the fangs and using his real teeth, leaving the woman unconscious and bloody. He hallucinates another encounter with a disdainful Rachel.

Afterwards, Peter encounters the real Rachel dancing with another man on the dance floor. She appears to recognize him, but gives the impression that they have not been in contact for a long time. Peter attempts to manhandle her into revealing her fangs as her date fights him off. He screams that he loves her and accuses her of being a vampire as he is dragged off and expelled from the club by security.

Alva wakes up with her shirt ripped open, possibly thinking she was raped, and eventually tells her brother Emilio who is enraged and goes after Peter with Alva to seek revenge. Meanwhile, Peter is wandering the streets, disheveled in a blood-spattered business suit from the previous night, excitedly talking to himself. Standing on a street corner, he has a hallucinatory exchange with his therapist, claiming that he raped someone and murdered someone else; a nearby newspaper headline confirms the latter. As Peter returns to his now-destroyed apartment, Alva points him out to Emilio, who pursues him inside the apartment block with a tire iron.

In the midst of an abusive argument with an imaginary romantic interest (supposedly a patient of his psychiatrist), Peter begins to retch again from the blood he had swallowed, then crawls under his upturned sofa on the floor, as though it were a coffin. Emilio finds Peter and upturns the sofa. Peter holds a large broken piece of wood to his chest as a makeshift stake, repeating the gesture he had made earlier to strangers on the street when he had asked them to kill him. Emilio pushes down on the wood and it pierces Peter's chest in a gruesome manner. Emilio flees the apartment. As Peter dies, he envisions the vampire Rachel staring at him one last time.


  • Nicolas Cage as Peter Loew, a literary agent whose outlandish descent into madness leaves him increasingly isolated
  • María Conchita Alonso as Alva Restrepo, secretary to Peter and constant victim to his rants and impatience
  • Jennifer Beals as Rachel, the seductive vampire that initially haunts Peter and pushes him into his vampire-like state, eventually falling in love with him
  • Kasi Lemmons as Jackie, a romantic interest of Peter which he later stands up in favor of a night with Rachel
  • Bob Lujan as Emilio, the protective brother of Alva who supplies her with a gun and blank ammunition
  • Elizabeth Ashley as Dr. Glaser, the therapist in Peter's real and imaginary worlds

In addition, Jessica Lundy plays Sharon, the patient his therapist sets Peter up with, Cage's brother Marc Coppola briefly appears as the joke guy, and the musical group ESG has a cameo performing in a club.


Joseph Minion wrote the film as he grappled with depression. In an interview with Zach Schonfeld of The Ringer, Minion said that while on vacation in Barbados with his then-girlfriend, Barbara Zitwer, he wrote the screenplay as a response to his "toxic relationship" with her. Zitwer, who would come on as a producer for the film, found the final product to be "horrifying". Minion's depiction of Zitwer as a "vampire and destroying him"[1] foreshadowed the ending of their relationship during production. Known previously for having written After Hours, directed by Martin Scorsese, Minion sought to keep the "grim view of the Manhattan nightlife"[1] found in the aforementioned film central to his newest work.

Originally intent on directing the project, Minion soon gave the position up stating that the "darkness of it",[1] was too much for him to bear. Instead, the film was led by British newcomer Robert Bierman, who held previous experience working on commercials and short films such as The Rocking Horse Winner (1983) and The Dumb Waiter (1979). This sudden departure however also prompted the then-cast Nicolas Cage to drop out after his agent pressured him, stating that "this was not a good movie to make after Moonstruck".[4] His departure was short-lived however, and Cage's "outrageously unbridled performance"[5] was destined for the screen. Cage described the story as being about "a man whose loneliness and inability to find love literally drives him insane".[1]

The role of Peter Loew was originally given to Dennis Quaid, then passed on to Cage after the former dropped out to do Innerspace.[1] Cage and Beals reportedly did not get along on set, with their friction most likely stemming from the part of Rachel going to Beals rather than Cage's then-girlfriend, Patricia Arquette.[1]

Going purposefully against the method acting technique, Cage "took a highly surrealistic approach"[1] to Loew. Apart from his "pseudo-Transylvanian dialect",[6] scenes of Cage screaming the alphabet, eating cockroaches, and ranting "I'm a vampire!" shocked viewers and critics alike. The original script called for Loew to eat a raw egg but Cage decided a cockroach would be more effective claiming it would "shock the audience".[4] This shock was further extended to a couple of real homeless people whom Cage ran into on the streets of Manhattan as he pleaded with them to drive a stake through his heart as Bierman and crew shot from afar. Physicality played a central role in the creation of this character for Cage who in several terrifying scenes sought to see "how big [he] could get [his] eyes".[4] This was then furthered with scenes of Cage jumping on tables, sprinting across the office, and many frantic hand gestures which he claims were "extremely choreographed".[1]


Vampire's Kiss was released June 2, 1989. It grossed $725,131 in the U.S.[2] It was released on home video in August 1990.[7] MGM released it on DVD in August 2002,[8] and Scream Factory released it on Blu-ray in February 2015.[9] It was subsequently re-released on Blu-Ray through the MVD Rewind label in June, 2022.[10]


Vampire's Kiss was considered a commercial flop upon its initial release. On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 65% of 31 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 6/10. The website's consensus reads: "He's a vampire! He's a vampire! He's a vampire!"[11] Metacritic assigned the film a weighted average score of 30 out of 100, based on 11 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[12]

Variety wrote, "Cage's over-the-top performance generates little sympathy for the character, so it's tough to be interested in him as his personality disorder worsens."[13]

Caryn James of The New York Times wrote, "[T]he film is dominated and destroyed by Mr. Cage's chaotic, self-indulgent performance."[6] Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times called it "a sleek, outrageous dark comedy that's all the funnier for constantly teetering on the brink of sheer tastelessness and silliness."[14]

Hal Hinson of The Washington Post called the film "stone-dead bad, incoherently bad", but said that Cage's overacting must be seen to be believed.[3] Carrie Rickey of The Philadelphia Inquirer called it an "imaginative, if warped, black comedy" that "succeeds as a wicked allegory of What Men Want".[15]

Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers wrote that the film needs "a stake through the heart".[16] Reviewing the film on Blu-ray, Anthony Arrigo of Bloody Disgusting wrote, "The film may not work very well as a comedy, but there's enough of a dark derangement present to make it almost unsettling."[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Schonfeld, Zach (June 13, 2019). "Truly Batshit: The Secret History of 'Vampire's Kiss,' the Craziest Nicolas Cage Movie of All Time". The Ringer. Retrieved April 30, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c "Vampire's Kiss". Box Office Mojo.
  3. ^ a b Hinson, Hal (June 2, 1989). "'Vampire's Kiss' (R)". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 13, 2015.
  4. ^ a b c "47 Things We Learned from Nicolas Cage's Vampire's Kiss Commentary". Film School Rejects. February 9, 2015. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
  5. ^ Rosenbaum, Jonathan (October 26, 1985). "Vampire's Kiss". Chicago Reader. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
  6. ^ a b James, Caryn (June 2, 1989). "Vampire s Kiss (1989)". The New York Times. Retrieved February 13, 2015.
  7. ^ Smith, Mark Chalon (August 23, 1990). "'Vampire's Kiss': A Metaphor With Bite". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 13, 2015.
  8. ^ Cressey, Earl (August 1, 2002). "Vampire's Kiss". DVD Talk. Retrieved February 13, 2015.
  9. ^ Miska, Brad (January 6, 2015). "Scream Factory: Spirits, Vamps and New Year's Classics On Blu-ray!". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved February 13, 2015.
  10. ^ "Vampire's Kiss (Special Edition) (Blu-ray)".
  11. ^ "Vampire's Kiss (1989)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved July 29, 2023.
  12. ^ "Vampire's Kiss Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved January 17, 2023.
  13. ^ "Review: 'Vampire's Kiss'". Variety. 1988. Retrieved February 13, 2015.
  14. ^ Thomas, Kevin (June 2, 1989). "MOVIE REVIEW : 'Vampire' Sinks Fangs Into Big-City Nastiness". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 13, 2015.
  15. ^ Rickey, Carrie (June 3, 1989). "'Vampire's Kiss': Nicolas Cage Goes Batty". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved February 13, 2015.
  16. ^ Travers, Peter (June 2, 1989). "Vampire's Kiss". Rolling Stone. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
  17. ^ Arrigo, Anthony (February 9, 2015). "Vampire's Kiss / High Spirits (Blu-ray Double Feature)". Dread Central. Retrieved February 13, 2015.

External links[edit]