It All Starts With… – The Kiss (1988)

Sometimes a kiss is just a kiss as they say and that could be true, except when it comes from an aunt or sister or mother who is trying to pass down the family curse. Not only is it awkward, specifically for the receiving party, but now it is not only the memory that one has to live with, but the voodoo powers that come with it and then knowing that one day, the same thing will have to happen again. Such is the premise of The Kiss as directed by Pen Densham and starring Joanna Pacula and Meredith Salenger.

Salenger plays Amy, a young girl in highschool who has a great family, good friends and a life she loves. Unknowingly, that is all about to end when her Aunt Felice calls up looking to connect with the family after a twenty-plus year absence. Amy’s mom knows what it is all about, but soon dies in a very freak accident and it is not too long after that she finally meets the woman in question. After numerous strange happenings take place, Amy finally begins to realize that maybe it all has something to do with Felice and that she needs to stay as far away from her as possible.

For a horror movie, The Kiss is a bit of a slow burn, but it does so consistently throughout and leads up to a big finale that makes it all worth it. That being said, it is not a particularly scary movie, a little more shocking than it is frightening for the most part and is filled with a slight tension that keeps the characters on edge, most especially Amy. The practical effects used are good, though it does border a little on the ridiculous when the feral cat comes into play. Most of what made this a horror film though came from Pacula and her performance which bordered on being both seductive and creepy more often than not. It was a little more effective perhaps due to her being a beautiful woman and completely unassuming, nothing that one would usually associate with being a witch. Still, a few more actual scares to go along with the blood and the gore that were present would have gone a long way.

Additionally, there is an almost dreamy quality to the film, one could also call it 80’s gloss as so many movies from the period tended to feature it and it works, putting the viewer at ease in preparation for whatever it is that the makers of the film have in store. Here, it was a lot of family drama tinged by loss and the revelation that not every long-lost relative has the best intentions at heart. As it is, The Kiss is a picture that managed to set itself apart from all the serial killers and haunted houses of the day, perfect for that moment when a horror film that is a little more subtle than most is preferred.

3 out of 5

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