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Film / Vampire's Kiss

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Peter Loew

Vampire's Kiss is a 1989 horror comedy film directed by Robert Bierman and starring Nicolas Cage in what could quite possibly be his craziest performance in a career full of crazy performances, along with Maria Conchita Alonso, Jennifer Beals, and Elizabeth Ashley.

Peter Loew (Cage) is a self-centered yuppie in New York City who's slowly losing his mind. He works as a literary agent by day, and hops nightclubs picking up women by night. In the opening, Peter is talking with his therapist, Dr. Glaser (Ashley), whom he visits frequently, about his sexual conquests. One night, he takes a woman home with him, and a bat flies into his apartment. The experience leaves him feeling both frightened and sexually aroused, something which he reports to Dr. Glaser.

Soon after, he meets up with a woman named Rachel (Beals) in a club and takes her to his apartment to have sex. However, unknown to Peter, Rachel is a vampire, and she bites Peter on his neck while they are having sex. After that, he believes that he is turning into a vampire, and consequentially, he develops a sensitivity to sunlight and can no longer see his reflection. However, although Peter believes his reflection is gone, it's visible to the audience, and although he thinks he'll burn in the sun, it has no effect on him.

Not to be confused with the SNES game known in Europe as Castlevania: Vampire's Kiss. For that, see Castlevania: Dracula X.

This film provides examples of:

  • All Just a Dream: Rachel, as a vampire, seems to be a figment of Peter's insane mind. It does appear that there's a real woman named Rachel, although it's ambiguous as to whether or not she knows him as anything other than a one-night stand.
  • Ambiguous Situation: Whether Peter Lowe is becoming a vampire, going insane, or both. The movie leans toward it all being in Peter's head or suffering from rabies. But he encounters his creator in a club before meeting the "real" her and she's wearing the same clothes. Which implies she may well be Real After All.
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: Shooting himself in the mouth with a blank cartridge would have STILL done more damage than what was shown in the film. Especially Hollywood's favorite type which produce more muzzle flash to look more impressive.
  • Asshole Victim: The movie ends with Alva's brother tracking down Peter and staking him in the heart after Alva tells him that Peter raped her.
  • Ate His Gun: Peter tries to kill himself this way using Alva's gun. It doesn't work though, as unbeknownst to him it's loaded with blanks. This furthers his belief he's a vampire, who are traditionally portrayed being Immune to Bullets.
  • Ax-Crazy: Peter becomes more violent over the course of his psychosis escalating to rape and murder by the film's climax.
  • Bad Boss: Peter obviously treats Alva horribly, verbally abusing her constantly and eventually raping her.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: Peter snatches a pigeon and eats it raw late in the movie. He also eats a cockroach alive after finding it crawling around on his stove earlier.
  • Big Bad: Peter Loew's slow descent into violent insanity drives the plot.
  • Black Comedy: It's hard not to find Peter's breakdown at least a little funny.
  • Boss's Unfavorite Employee: Peter's mistreatment of Alva, explained in in an extremely deadpan fashion by Peter, is only to her and no other employee, and he seems to relish the control. His hatred of her get to a serious extreme when he rapes her.
    Peter Loew: [staring at Alva, his eyes getting increasingly wider and more crazed-looking] Alva, there is no one else in this entire office that I could possibly ask to share such a horrible job. You're the lowest on the totem pole here, Alva. The lowest. Do you realize that? Every other secretary here has been here longer than you, Alva. Every one. And even if there was someone here who was here even one day longer than you, I still wouldn't ask that person to partake in such a miserable job as long as you were around. That's right, Alva. It's a horrible, horrible job; sifting through old contract after old contract. I couldn't think of a more horrible job if I wanted to. And you have to do it! You have to or I'll fire you. You understand? Do you? Good.
  • Break the Cutie: Poor, poor Alva. Peter is absolutely horrible to her even before he rapes her.
  • Bungled Suicide: Peter tries to shoot himself with a gun that only has blanks.
  • Butt-Monkey: Peter constantly degrades Alva and makes her do tedious tasks (such as looking for a 25 year old contract in a sea of files).
  • Chewing the Scenery: Nick Cage is more hammy here than in many of his other roles.
  • Cold Ham: In the scene which inspired the "You don't say?" image macro, Cage has a manic look in his eyes and starts to speak a little emphatically, but he never raises his voice over a stage whisper, until the very last line.
  • Country Matters: Used five times, all of them by, you guessed it, Peter.
  • Cut Himself Shaving: Peter really does cut himself shaving, but starts to think of the cut as his vampire bite. Him employing this trope when Dr. Glaser asks about the bandage on his neck is a sort of unwitting truth.
  • Cute Little Fangs: When the fangs that Peter expects to appear fail to do so, he buys a pair of cheap plastic costume fangs from a novelty shop and runs around flashing them.
  • Death Seeker: By the end of the film Peter starts begging people to kill him and makes no effort to fight back when Alva's brother does so.
  • The Dog Bites Back: After Peter rapes Alva, she tells her brother, who kills Peter.
  • Driven to Suicide: Peter, in despair over thinking he's a vampire, tries to kill himself. It doesn't work however.
  • Failed Attempt at Drama: Peter tries to bully Alva by making her watch him humiliate himself with a "song and dance" apology to Der Spiegel over his contract. Instead, Der Spiegel had called to apologize over being so pushy over the copy he requested. Peter then plays off the interaction as an instance of Tranquil Fury (when it really wasn't) before threatening to fire Alva if she doesn't find it.
  • George Jetson Job Security: Alva's position at the office progressively becomes the job of acting as Peter's personal chew toy throughout the movie. He flat-out threatens to fire her if she refuses or fails to find a twenty-five-year-old contract, despite her dedication and dependability.
  • The Ghost: Frank Heatherton. However, we do hear him speaking to Peter over the phone, where he seems to be a Nice Guy and is understanding about the time it will take to find the file. Due to Peter's insanity, he believes that Frank is angry over it and is willing to cut ties with him.
  • Girly Run: Seen as Peter runs down the street, screaming, "I'M A VAMPIAH! I'M A VAMPIAH! I'M A VAMPIAH!"
  • Gross-Up Close-Up: There is a close-up of Peter eating a cockroach. To make matters more disturbing, Nicolas Cage actually ate a real cockroach. It took three takes before the scene was finished.
    • Apparently, that part wasn't actually scripted, and the roach's owner got very angry at Cage for eating it, considering the time and money it took to train.
    • According to the Director, the version used in the film is actually the first take, and he was happy with it when he shot it. He was just pissed at Cage about something, so he made him eat two more cockroaches.
  • Hallucinations: Although a lot is left unclear as to whether it really happens or Peter's imagining it, he does have an entire conversation with a statue believing it's his therapist near the end.
  • Hollywood Blanks: Peter's suicide attempt fails because the gun was loaded with blanks. Lucky for him that having a small but powerful explosion go off inside his mouth did no damage to him whatsoever.
  • Holy Burns Evil: To the point where sunlight or anything cross-shaped causes Peter to scream in pain. Since it's all in his head and he can't die, this goes on for awhile.
  • Insane Equals Violent: Peter becomes increasingly violent as he loses his mind in the film, to the point of committing rape and murder. It's justified though as his delusion involves believing he's a vampire. He also hates what he's becoming and even wants to die by the end over it.
  • Interrupted Intimacy: When Peter brings a girl to his apartment for sex, a bat suddenly swoops into the room to disturb them. Peter later confesses to his therapist that the bat turned him on.
    • Lampshaded by Rachel after she stops Peter from answering his telephone while she bites him/makes out with him.
  • Jerkass: Peter was this even before losing his shit, ditching a girl he was having a date with and treating Alva quite poorly.
  • Kick the Dog: Even before going insane, Peter Loew is constantly abusing his secretary for no reason. His treatment of her just gets worse as he does lose his mind, eventually raping her.
  • The Killjoy: In one scene, Peter grabs a rubber duck from a secretary's desk and coldly drops it into a wastebasket as he walks by.
  • Kiss of the Vampire: Peter comes to enjoy being bitten and fed on by Rachel, coming back for more multiple times. It may just be all in his mind however.
  • Laughably Evil: Peter may be a horrible boss, a rapist, and a murderer, but many of his actions and antics make him hilarious to watch.
  • Likes Older Women: Late in the movie, Peter calls Dr. Glaser at night. She is wearing an alluring night gown, with a shirtless young man in his 20s. Actress Elizabeth Ashley, who played her, was around 50.
  • Looks Like Orlok: Nicolas Cage does a rather impressive physical impression of Count Orlok in one of the later scenes in the movie, before assaulting a young woman at a nightclub, even without makeup.
  • Madness Mantra:
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane:
    • This is an overall theme with this movie, since it's never explicitly stated whether or not Peter is really a vampire. The movie leans toward Peter just going insane but there are a few events that make it ambiguous.
    • A bit more ambiguous is whether or not Rachel is a vampire. That she is, but Peter is merely deluded into being one, is a possible interpretation.
  • Mind Rape: When Rachel bit Peter, it apparently drove him insane. Or not. He showed signs of descending into psychosis even before he was bitten.
  • Mood-Swinger: Peter frequently shifts between ecstatic joy, seething rage, and regretful sorrow for little reason. This is best exemplified when near the end of the film he showers an entirely imaginary girlfriend with warmth and kindness one moment and then begins ranting and screaming within minutes.
  • Posters Always Lie: Despite what the various posters might indicate, this is NOT a romantic comedy, but a somewhat disturbing psychological thriller in the vein of American Psycho.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: It is apparent, as the movie progresses, that vampires may not really exist in the world of the movie. Peter, however, seems to fully believe in the most common vampire tropes, and that he himself is turning into one. While Peter very obviously isn't one, the existence of vampires as a whole is left ambiguous. Rachel could either be a real vampire or simply a delusional fantasy. She even has a conspiratorial smirk when Peter is thrown out of a club. It's also possible she might just pretend to be one too, even biting people, and enjoy this (along with Peter being kicked out) as she's a sadist.
  • The Power of Love: By the end of the movie, Peter believes that true love is the only thing that can cure his psychosis. He tells this to a statue in downtown New York City, although he thinks he's talking to his therapist.
  • Precision F-Strike: Alva is a meek, mild-mannered woman who rarely ever curses, except for one instance where she demands her brother to "give [her] the fucking gun!" to scare Peter from terrorizing her further.
  • Rage Against the Reflection: In the midst of a nervous breakdown, Peter trashes his apartment and shatters his personal mirror.
  • Rape and Revenge: Alva's brother kills Peter for his rape of her.
  • Rape Discretion Shot: When Peter rapes Alva, all we are shown is him pinning her to the ground and tearing her blouse a little.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Rachel gives Peter one of these after he murders a woman and is clearly disgusted with the monster that he has become. Whether he hallucinates it all or not is ambiguous.
  • Reluctant Psycho: Peter's descent into madness is not willingly, at times apologizing in a seemingly genuine fashion to Alva for his abusive acts and begging her and others to kill him later on.
  • The Renfield: Peter to Rachel. He even eats a cockroach. However Rachel is just a hallucination of Peter's. Maybe.
  • Sanity Slippage: Peter undergoes a severe form of this, going from believing that he's a vampire to talking to people who don't exist.
  • Satellite Love Interest: Invoked and later subverted with Peter's imaginary girlfriend Sharon. At first, he imagines her to be his perfect match, but by the time he gets back to his apartment, he's screaming at her for asking about his vampire-phase before telling her to leave.
  • Saying Sound Effects Out Loud: "BOOHOO!"
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted. Peter regularly sees a therapist to talk to. The problem is that his mental illness is far more severe than he lets her know.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: As Peter's mental state gets worse, you're shown his hallucinations.
  • Vampires Are Sex Gods: Rachel is apparently quite voracious in bed. Even a bat seems to arouse Peter.
  • Vigilante Man: Instead of going with her to the police, Alva's brother kills Peter for him raping her.
  • Villain Protagonist: Peter, who rapes Alva and possibly kills someone over the course of the movie. Even before this he was a huge jerk.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: Peter's weird high-class accent seems to soften depending on who he's talking to. The best comparison is that it sounds like a mix of Ted Theodore Logan and Patrick Bateman. One review even described it as a "from-nowhere accent". Nicolas Cage has said it was a deliberate acting choice - the accent is meant to be entirely put-on by the character, and is at its strongest in scenes where Peter is trying to impress people with how smart and sophisticated he is.
  • Weakened by the Light: Not so much weakened as pushed into the final stages of delusion.
  • Wondrous Ladies Room: At one point, Peter chases Alva into the women's restroom, revealing a very posh environment for nature's business.
  • Yuppie: Peter is a rich white boss in New York with all of the trappings associated with Yuppie culture, including his Conspicuous Consumption, his suit and hairstyle, his various one-night stands and so on.


Video Example(s):


Peter Loew

In Vampire's Kiss, Nicolas Cage plays a young, affluent literary agent in '80's New York who balances out his business days with hedonistic nights filled with casual sex. His character then comes to believe he's turned into a vampire, a metaphor for the predatory nature of uncontrolled capitalism and the yuppie class.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / Yuppie

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