Weird Movie Corner: The Kiss (1988)
Plot Outline: Teenager Amy Halloran’s (Meredith Salenger) mother is killed in a car crash while going to meet her sister Felice (Joanna Pacula), a top fashion model. Not long after, Amy’s father meets Felice at the graveside and invites her to move in. Amy develops a dislike of Felice, particularly after she seduces her father. She comes to believe that Felice is using African magic to kill off her friends and is now trying to possess her.
The Kiss is a fun mix of late 80s violence with a twist of body-snatching and witchery. The methods Felice uses to kill her victims are all elaborate, almost beautifully masterminded in their depiction. Amy's friend is cut by her necklace caught in the turning escalator; a man is boiled to death in an elevator thanks to Felice's voodoo dolls. I like the Freudian symbolism where Felice gets to represent everything from a female Oedipus complex and pseudo-lesbianism to fear of menstruation and health foods. Crude Catholic imagery lies everywhere throughout the film. The scenes where Meredith Salenger hallucinates that the heart on an anatomical dummy has come to life, crosscut with scenes of her father and Joanna Pacula having sex, while she menstruates on the seat in a classroom is the best in terms of over-the-top symbolism.The climax – involving the emergence of the parasite possessing Joanna Pacula, exploding swimming pools, reanimated corpses, a propane barbecue canister that suddenly turns into a belching thirty-foot tall flame jet, hedge clipper attacks, and the mutant cat being pitchforked and torched on poolside lamps – may leave some people laughing, but I liked it. The mutant cat is not believable, a fall down for the usually excellent makeup effects artist Chris Walas, who provided sterling work on films such as Scanners (1981) and Gremlins (1984). Joanna Pacula really makes this film shine - her accent can become quite menacing, and her sexuality is poignant throughout the film, not just for men but for women as well. Her cold beauty and piercing grey eyes are menacing and do well to emphasize just how dangerous she is as a voodoo witch. There’s something to be said about The Kiss’ focus on sex as a way to bewitch the innocent; it serves as a reminder that one must be careful of how close they let a partner get, at least at first. The Kiss might not be the best film you will ever see, but the story is certainly entertaining. It's worth at least a peck on the cheek.