Vampire’s Kiss (1988) – WTF Happened to This Horror Movie?

The Vampire’s Kiss episode of WTF Happened to This Horror Movie? was Written by Ric Solomon, Narrated by Travis Hopson, Edited by Jaime Vasquez, Produced by Lance Vlcek and John Fallon, and Executive Produced by Berge Garabedian.

Nicolas Cage has brought us some truly unhinged performances. From Castor Troy in Face/Off, to his supporting role as Eddie in Deadfall, and even Edward Malus, a woman-punching policeman in the 2006 remake of The Wicker Man. There is no stopping his extreme method acting. But where did it all come from? In 1989, Nicolas’ seedling was born in the horror comedy Vampire’s Kiss (get it HERE). Back in the 80’s, some would say that his performance was too chaotic and horrendous. If you were to ask a millennial’s opinion today, they would tell you it’s one of the greatest films ever made. This film might have begun Cage’s method acting, but it also created a ton of behind-the-scenes problems as well as poor box office results. There are some truly crazy stories involving our favorite over the top actor. So, in this video, let’s look at Vampire’s Kiss and see WTF Happened to this Horror Movie.

In the mid-’80s, screenwriter Joseph Minion had just completed his work on Martin Scorsese’s cult classic After Hours. He was grappling with serious depression as a response to his toxic relationship with his, at the time, girlfriend Barbara Zitwer. In the script, he explored themes of identity, madness, isolation, and loneliness. Minion described Zitwer as a “vampire destroying him”. Not to get ahead of ourselves, but Barbara became a producer of this film. When she saw the final product, she was horrified that she was written in the script and portrayed that way. Like After Hours, Minion wanted to keep the “grim view of Manhattan nightlife”.

Originally planned as the film’s director, Minion bowed out stating that the “darkness of it” was too much for him to bear. The directing role was offered to Robert Bierman who had experience previously with commercials and short films. Nicolas Cage was very interested in the role, but only if Minion was directing the movie. So, he dropped out. Cage’s agent pleaded with him not to do it by saying that this wasn’t a good movie to make after starring in Moonstruck, opposite Cher. Early on, the leading role was optioned to Dennis Quaid and has been said that the movie got financing because of him. Quaid would eventually drop out to star in the Steven Spielberg produced Sci-Fi film, Innerspace.

The crew was scrambling for an actor to helm the lead role. Bierman met with Judd Nelson, whose agent requested he received $1 million. He dropped out immediately. Sylvester Stallone, John Travolta and even Arnold Schwarenegger were considered for the role as well. There were rumors of Cage regretting dropping out from the film. Zitwer recalls Cage being obsessed with the role. After some discussion, and persuasion of Nic’s agent, he was cast as Peter Loew, the lead character of Vampire’s Kiss.

To round out the rest of the cast, Jennifer Beals was hired as Rachel, a seductive vampire that haunts Peter and pushes him into his vampire state. Elizabeth Ashley was brought on as Dr. Glaser, Peter’s therapist. Last but certainly not least, Maria Conchita Alonso joined the cast as Alva, Loew’s secretary, and constant victim to his rants throughout the film.

Vampire's Kiss WTF Happened to This Horror Movie

Vampire’s Kiss begins with Peter Loew, a successful but eccentric literary agent living in New York City. He works all day and club hops at night looking for one night stands and partakes in alcohol and cocaine as well. He also sees a therapist and talks about his declining mental health weekly. One night, he meets Rachel and brings her back to his apartment for a hook up, but this one-night stand is different. Rachel is a vampire and bites his neck. Afterwards Peter starts to exhibit increasingly strange behavior and wears sunglasses inside buildings. He also develops a fright for daylight.

At his office, Peter torments a secretary, Alva. He does so by forcing her to search through an enormous file for a contract. He makes her stay late nights, until she is afraid to come to work. Peter then goes to her house to bring her into work, where he unloads his violent behavior and attempts to rape Alva in the process.

Rachel visits Peter’s apartment nightly to bite his neck and suck his blood and his mental state deteriorates even further. He starts gagging uncontrollably, eats a pigeon and is convinced that he’s becoming a vampire. He buy plastic fangs, turns his sofa into a coffin, walks around like he’s Nosferatu and terrorizes random New Yorkers…for some reason he also cries “Boo-hoo” instead of crying like a normal person.

At his most unhinged, Peter goes to a club wearing his fangs, and begins to seduce a woman. He gets too grabby and she slaps him. Peter then overpowers her and bites her neck with his real teeth, having taken out his fangs. He leaves the woman unconscious and bloody. Peter sees Rachel on the dance floor and he begins to profess his love to her. Rachel’s date fights him off and he’s eventually kicked out of the club.

Peter has now completely lost his mind and is wandering around New York talking to himself and has a hallucinatory exchange with his therapist. He then makes it to his apartment, where Alva’s brother Emilio follows him and breaks in. Emilio takes the piece of wood from Peter, who was walking around New York with it, and pushes it down into Peter’s chest killing him.

Production took place in fall of 1987 around New York City. The film was shot over a period of several weeks. Director Robert Bierman described the shoot as chaotic from beginning to end. He and cinematographer Stefan Czapsky employed a distinctive visual style to capture the film’s surreal and dark atmosphere. The use of stark lighting, bold colors, and unconventional camera angles helped convey Peter’s deteriorating mental state. The film’s budget was low, costing around $2 million. The producers saved money any way they could, and office scenes were shot for free in an empty government building. This became production base for the movie as well.

On set, Cage and Beals didn’t get along. This was mostly because she was hired for the role of Rachel. Cage, throwing a fit, wanted the part to go to his then-girlfriend, Patricia Arquette. To be turned on during their scenes, Nic asked to have hot yogurt poured over his toes while he was doing a love scene with Jennifer. It was a strange request, but eventually Nic warmed up to her and they got along well.

There are plenty of disturbing and strange scenes that happen in Vampire’s Kiss. The first involving Peter reciting the alphabet. This scene is not only infamous but is what most people remember from this film. In the scene, Nic not only bellows the entire alphabet, but performs increasingly frantic hand moments while accompanying each syllable. Elizabeth Ashley filmed this scene with him and said none of it was random. Cage has gone on record saying “It actually is extremely choreographed. Every one of those moves was thought out in my hotel room with my cat.”

Another scene involves Nic eating a real cockroach. It’s also the only scene that wasn’t in the script. He eats a live roach and chews it like a madman. This scene originally called for Mr. Cage to eat a raw egg, but he decided it would be more effective and shocking to eat a roach. The crew didn’t want Cage to get sick, so they called a doctor. The doctor’s response was to have Nic drink whiskey right after. The scene was shot twice, and he swallowed both roaches.

The director had Nic run loose around Manhattan scaring pedestrians, talking to himself on corners and shouting “I am a Vampire” repeatedly. At the time, people didn’t even know who Cage was because Moonstruck hadn’t even hit theaters yet. He would go up to people with a piece of wood and ask them to drive a stake into his heart, which is in the movie. These strangers also had no idea they were being filmed, so you’re seeing genuine fright in their eyes. Bierman said they shot these scenes with long lenses and set up a camera across the street and filmed Nic.

Cage brought tons of energy to the film, but never veered from the script or did anything against the director’s wishes. For instance, it was the director’s idea to have him hop onto the desk when he confronts Alva. Bierman said, for the movie to flow, Nic’s character had to be constantly changing and never let the audience know what was coming next.

Nic even put on a weird faux-British accent during filming. The producers were horrified and couldn’t believe what he was doing. Bierman stood up for him and said that this accent was used so the role wouldn’t be played straightforward and Peter would be loathed and unwatchable. You can even say Keanu Reeves adopted this accent for his role in Bram Stoker’s Dracula… just not the charisma.

Vampire's Kiss WTF Happened to This Horror Movie

After production wrapped, the film was shelved by its distributor, Hemdale Film Corporation, for 18 months. Eventually, Vampire’s Kiss was released on June 2, 1989. Unfortunately, it came out in the same year and same month as the caped crusader Batman, which made his way into theaterson June 23, 1989. To no one’s surprise, the film flopped with its final box office run coming in around an estimated $725,000. Most audiences didn’t rush to theaters to see it. Critics weren’t too kind upon its release either. Variety wrote, “Cage’s over-the-top performance generates little sympathy for the character, so it’s tough to be interested in him as the personality disorder worsens.”

Vampire’s Kiss released on home video, from HBO and Hemdale, in August of 1990. MGM would later release it on DVD in August of 2002. Scream Factory then released it on Blu-ray in February of 2015 with a great audio commentary from Bierman and Cage discussing the behind the scenes of the movie. Its latest release was in 2022 from MVD Rewind Collection with an almost identical video and audio transfer as well as similar bonus features from Shout Factory’s release.

After this film was released to the masses, Nicolas Cage would go on and change cinema by crafting offbeat and over the top characters. Since then, he has worked with some of the best directors in Hollywood like Martin Scorsese, Ridley Scott, Jon Turteltaub, Michael Bay, Joel Schumacher, and Spike Jonze. In 2023, he even played the role of Dracula in the very underrated gory horror comedy, Renfield.

Over the last 10-15 years, this film has gained cult status because of Cage’s over the top performance and its memes have brought a new life to it online. People love its dark humor and absurdity which created a unique tone that appeals to fans of offbeat and unconventional cinema. In 2018, during a GQ Interview, Cage even stated this was his favorite role he’s done.

I’m going to give this a solid 7 out of 10. Ultimately, it’s a film that elicits strong and polarizing reactions from its viewers and defies easy categorization. Vampire’s Kiss is celebrated because of its distinctiveness and unique qualities and has been revisited and reappraised by its newfound audience. It’s a movie that demands an open mind and appreciation for its eccentricities, making it a cult favorite among its fans and something that will be cherished for years to come.

A couple of the previous episodes of WTF Happened to This Horror Movie? can be seen below. To see more, head over to our JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channel – and subscribe while you’re there!

Originally published at

author avatar
Noor Editor

Latest articles

press release distribution
the most expensive reality show

Related articles