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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
The Kiss (1988)

"Hilary, I have to see you. It's time."
- Felice (Joanna Pacula)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: March 16, 2004

Stars: Joanna Pacual, Meredith Salenger
Other Stars: Mimi Kuzyk, Nicholas Kilbertus, Sabrina Boudot, Shawn Levy, Jan Rubes, Pamela Collyer
Director: Pen Desham

MPAA Rating: R for (violence, nudity)
Run Time: 01h:37m:53s
Release Date: February 24, 2004
UPC: 043396101357
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- C+BB- D-

DVD Review

In the bad horror genre, The Kiss (1988) is one of my many guilty pleasures; a film so downright pointless and silly that it is a little embarrassing to admit to even having seen it once, let alone a few times. This is pure B-movie hokum, a nonsensical story about some kind of ancient family curse that gets more illogical as things progress, but it is assembled so neatly, in an unintentionally high-camp fashion (well, as perfect as bad B-movies can be) that I always get happily drawn into this one, like the proverbial moth to a flame. I'm not proud of it, but at least I can be honest about it.

Things begin with a nifty little prologue set in the Belgian Congo in the early 1960s, where Felice, a young 8-year-old girl, is being shipped off by her relic-hunting father to some unnamed sanitarium, in the care of her aunt. After saying goodbye to her father and older sister Hilary, it becomes apparent right away that the aunt isn't all she's cracked up to be, and it isn't long before Felice is faced with a creepy-looking ancient artifact, some mumblings about a family secret and a nasty face-to-face encounter that ends very, very badly. The story then jumps forward 25 years, and the stage is set for an ill-fated and deadly family reunion between Felice (now played by Joanna Pacula) and Hilary (Pamela Collyer), who have not seen each other since that day in the Belgian Congo. To make matters worse, Felice has come to town with her evil eyes set on Hilary's virginal teenage daughter Amy (Meredith Salenger), and that can only mean more trouble for everyone involved. And boy oh boy, does it ever.

So why is The Kiss so much fun? Maybe it's the way Roman Polanski protégté Pacula, all loose curls and accented-sexiness, saunters about and growls like she's in a Whitesnake video, or the multitude of bad, garish 1980s fashions to be found here, which only adds to the inherent campiness, and things like Meredith Salenger's bizarre bald eagle sweater just beg to be chuckled at. Trust me, they really do, even if worn by someone as terminally cute as Salenger.

Yes, we know all the secondary characters are going to meet untimely "accidental" deaths, which they do right on schedule, and the questionable laws of science and physics that are called into play during the big explosive climax are laughable enough to make anyone with a second-grade education question what the hell they just saw. To double down on the weirdness, director Pen Densham even throws in some sort of rogue devil cat and something that looks like it wandered in from the set of Alien.

For all its apparent bad movie warts, The Kiss is really built surprisingly solid (meaning it looks good, even if the story makes no sense) despite having been joined together with painted over bits of genre clichtés and predictable sequences, which I suppose is a credit to Densham. It also is in part due to Salenger, who somehow manages to tackle the role of a confused teen with something that comes close to a degree of veiled realism, at least for a genre film, complete with all the "I-hate-my-dad-because-he's-sleeping-with-my-evil-aunt-with-the-dynamo-bod" mood swings and tears that go with the territory for all members of that hormonally challenged age group. For a moment or two, she actually makes you forget you're watching another of those ancient prophecy movies, and in between the face-eating escalators, scissors jammed in necks, shrub trimmers gone mad, and spontaneous combustion, Salenger comes the closest to being real. Almost, that is, because at one point she licks a heaping gob of frosting off a delivery guy's earring after it plops out into a cake; I can only hope real teens don't really do that.

While this will never be confused with anything remotely horrific or frightening, it is sprinkled with a handful of memorable scenes (one character's failed attempt to get out from under a car) and the requisite smoldering coolness of the evil-sexy-monster-auntie played by Pacula.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Woohoo to Columbia TriStar for having the decency to issue The Kiss in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, and while the print does have some noticeable age flaws, it doesn't look half bad. Detail is strong, and considering this is late-1980s vintage, the color palette holds up pretty well to scrutiny. In fact, there were moments when I was pleasantly surprised at just how deep and colorful this release looked (witness Meredith Salenger's numerous pool sequences, where the blue of the water and the white of her swimsuit look fantastic). Fleshtones, as well, are just about perfect.

Nice looking.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: Nothing spectacular audio-wise, but the 2.0 surround is more than up to the task of delivering the cornball dialogue and beefing up a few of the score stingers that pop up from time to time. Minimal rear channel cues on this mix, but the presentation is clean and well mixed.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Bats, Creature Features, The Forsaken, Wolf
Packaging: AGI Media Packaging
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Nothing here but a few trailers, 28 chapter stops and optional subtitles in English or Spanish.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

In the dark corners of my guilty pleasure closet, I have always liked this movie, and I'm glad Columbia TriStar has at least seen fit to issue it in anamorphic widescreen. It doesn't make the movie any better, but it does lend an air of legitimacy to it, don't you think?

Joanna Pacula and her sexy, giant eyebrows are all over The Kiss, an ancient family curse flick that gets nuttier the longer it goes on, and poor Meredith Salenger (no eyebrow slouch herself) has to avoid having a big, wet one planted on her.


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