Nicolas Cage plays the world’s biggest douchebag in the 1989 film Vampire’s Kiss.
Cage is playing Peter Loew, who is kind of like Patrick Bateman’s less successful cousin. He’s got a nice apartment in New York City and he wears fairly nice clothes and he has this weird, stuffed-up way of speaking. By night, Peter spends all of his time at the bars and the clubs, trying to get laid. During the day, Peter goes to his job as a literary agent, where he sits around in his office and spends most of his time tormenting his secretary, Alva (Maria Conchita Alonso).
Peter has recently been tasked with finding the Heatherton Contract. It’s a contract from 1963, one that was signed long before either Peter or Alva joined the company. All Peter knows is that the contract is somewhere in a huge stack of files. Harold Heatherton wants a copy of the contract so that he can frame it. Peter wants the contract so that he can advance at his job and make even more money. Alva just wants to be left alone.
“ALVA!” Peter spends his days yelling from the office.
“I hate my boss!” Alva says as she spend the morning crying in bed.
Yes, Peter is a jerk. He maintains a toxic work environment. He’s a misogynist. He’s the type of asshole who screams at Alva to go find the Heatherton Contract and then stares at her backside as she walks back to her desk. He’s a terrible human being and he’s steadily getting worse. That’s because Peter is convinced that he’s turning into a vampire. There’s even a lengthy scene where he stands in front of a bathroom mirror, moaning that he has no reflection. Of course, we can see that he absolutely does have a reflection.
In his apartment and his office, he is often visited by Rachel (Jennifer Beals). Rachel has fangs. Rachel bites him in the neck. Rachel sucks his blood. But is Rachel there or is she a figment of his imagination? Is he truly a vampire or is he like Patrick Bateman in American Psycho or the lead character in George Romero’s Martin? He has become so consumed by his fantasies of being an all-powerful monster that he can no longer tell the difference between fantasy and reality?
Vampire’s Kiss is understandably best known for Cage’s demented performance. Cage bulges his eyes, screams his lines, and spends a good deal of the film walking around with his shoulders hunched up. This is the film for which Cage famously ate a live cockroach. It’s undeniably watchable, though I think Cage made the mistake of playing Peter as being obviously unhinged even before he decided that he was a vampire. The scenes where he obsesses over the Heatherton Contract start out as mildly amusing but become more disturbing as the film progresses and Peter grows more and more deranged. From the moment that he started to chase the terrified Alva through the office, the film became so unpleasant that I just wanted it to hurry up and end. On the plus side, Alva does get revenge though I think it would have been more effective (or maybe, just for me, more satisfying) if the film’s final action had been carried out by Alva herself.
Vampire’s Kiss is a film that has quite an enthusiastic cult following. Having watched it, I can say that I’m not a member of that cult, though I can understand why Cage’s unhinged performance has fans. The film is about 20 minutes too long and it reveals the truth about Cage’s “vampirism” far too early but, if nothing else, Cage really does throw himself into it.