Review by Jenny Jediny
Posted on 30 October 2005
Source MGM DVD
Features: 31 Days of Horror
“Transcendent” is used commonly to describe Kissed — it should be the film’s characterizing aspect — but a proper and unbiased evaluation of the film is challenged in the description of what it is ostensibly about—the topic I will not cite. Consider the film’s plot as a mere amenity and the idea becomes clear: it’s about the essential nature of obsession, and the tragedy of one’s inadequacy to satisfy another’s honed desires. Uninhibited in dressing its concept with a gothic — and graphically depicted — sexuality, and deeply sensitive in explaining the result of one couple’s inability to connect with each other, Kissed is an under seen horror film distinguished by its beauty and sensitivity.
My interest in this film was given after reading some lukewarm reviews, each of which highlighted the controversy it roused at the 1996 Toronto International Film Festival. I now consider it among the best films of the ‘90s.
Desire comes in countless forms. and Kissed delves into a more anomalous version of it, namely necrophilia. Rather than becoming queasy at the mere mention of the word consider the following, that Kissed is thoughtful, far from grotesque in its handling of the sordid subject matter, and instead a sensitive venture into the sexual makeup of one woman’s psyche. The film is a patchwork of genres; blending horror, the psychological thriller, and, yes, the romantic comedy, at times slightly discombobulating due to the morbid connecting threads, but ultimately it is an interior journey for a unique sexual deviant, Sandra.
Death and sex, while inevitably connected, are not easy topics to understand or explore in any art form. With Kissed there is an unavoidable yet affirmative message connecting the two experiences to love, a force typically oversimplified as well. In Kissed love is intertwined with and recontextualized as a form of energy and light, a powerful strength Sandra refers to in her act of crossing over—in her terms, sexual intercourse with a corpse. The act consumes Sandra from the moment she begins working at a funeral home as a teenager. This scene, along with the increasing intimacy that follows, refutes the viewer’s expectations. The sex is discrete and Sandra spends more of her time complimenting the deceased and offering comfort, as she strokes their cold faces and shoulders. Necrophilia by common definition enables its participant’s necessity for power and control, but Sandra, not by any apparent means untroubled, genuinely feels for the dead, viewing this as a chance to truly connect with powers beyond human existence.
Of course, a living, single, and attractive woman must eventually cross paths with the living, and Sandra finds herself the object of Matt’s affections, a fellow college student. Their first conversation is truly unique, as Sandra frankly responds to Matt’s questioning of her employment choice (“I make love to the corpses”). Quite honestly, it’s easy to laugh, but a lesser film would have Sandra lie, jumping through hoops to keep a double life that she eventually must confess, and give up for conventional love. The matter-of-fact confession allows a far more complicated relationship develop between Sandra and Matt that leaves Matt as hopelessly infatuated with Sandra as she is with her corpses. It soon becomes obvious that Sandra cannot love Matt the same way she loves the dead, and Matt heads for the afterlife in the hopes of finally achieving the same kind of transcendence with Sandra she claims can only result from necrophilia.
It is difficult to recommend or even mention this film without getting odd looks, or questions about your own sexual behavior. However, the film’s distinction comes from an ability to transcend a subject usually left to avant-garde films, or more commonly the fetish category in the Adult section at your local rental store. Kissed truly questions the boundaries of love, but also those of desire; what we are compelled to do, and perhaps what we could do if unfettered by convention, taste, or a lover’s unwillingness to experiment, questions that most certainly stretch miles beyond any perceived sexual perversion.