New York University. Walking home after viewing a disturbing lecture documenting atrocities from the Vietnam War, doctoral candidate Kathy Conklin (Lili Taylor) is singled out to receive a vampire's 'kiss'. However, Casanova (Annabella Sciorra) is an atypical vampire in that she gives Kathy a chance to save herself by simply saying "Go away" like she means it. But Kathy can only mutter, "Please," so she ends up in the infirmary with a bite on her neck and a policeman telling her she's lucky her assailant didn't slit her throat.
"One aspect of determinism is manifested in the fact that the unsaved don't recognize the sin in their lives."
Kathy starts to feel ill during one of her lectures, and rushes to the lavatory where she vomits blood. She winds up back in the infirmary where the attending physician diagnoses "chronic anemia exacerbated by this traumatic event." The next day she meets her friend Jean (Edie Falco) for lunch but merely picks at her food and feels ill watching Jean scarf down a hamburger.
"The old adage from Santayana, that those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it, is a lie. There is no history. Everything we are is eternally with us."
Kathy has begun covering her mirrors in her apartment, and wearing sunglasses to class to protect her eyes from the sun. Her hunger for blood starting to grow, she uses a syringe to extract blood from the arm of a sleeping homeless man, but it doesn't help. She makes arrangements to meet with her advising professor to show him what she's done so far on her dissertation, which is nothing. They wind up back at her apartment, where he becomes a victim. The next day, while in the university library, Kathy invites an anthropology student to her apartment to study and have coffee. The student becomes a victim when she doesn't say, "Get out of here."
"All men counting stars are equivalent in every way to God." [Feuerbach]
Kathy's appetite for blood is becoming insatiable. She feeds on a young black guy looking for some "white tail". Kathy even corners her friend Jean in the ladies room at a local bar, challenging her to "look sin in the eye and tell me to go," but all Jean can do is blubber, "Please," so Kathy makes another victim of Jean.
"Mankind has striven to exist beyond good and evil from the beginning." [Nietzsche]
Now, rapidly descending deep into her addiction, Kathy tails a possible victim whose first words to her are, "Why don't you just tell me to leave you alone...like you mean it." He turns out to be Peina (Christopher Walken), a old vampire who invites Kathy to his loft. Peina tells Kathy that he has been "fasting" for four years and has learned to live without blood through the strength of his will. Peina tries to advise Kathy on living as a vampire without having to give in to the addiction. "The point is to blend in," he says, "not to stand out like a sore thumb." He then proceeds to feed on Kathy. Suffering from the pangs of her addiction, Kathy attempts to slit her wrist, but "you can't kill what's already dead," says Peina. She begs him to help her, but he refuses. Instead, he tells her to read the book The Naked Lunch.
"I felt the wind...the wings of madness." [Baudelaire]
Kathy weathers it through the day but gives in to the pangs that night. She walks the streets, stumbling along, holding her stomach and looking for a "fix." When a passerby sees her lying on the sidewalk, he offers help, but she leaps at his neck like a hungry cat. Claiming that she now understands what all this is about, Kathy begins to work again on
"Our addiction is evil," she writes. The propensity for this evil lies in our weakness before it. Kierkegaard was right. There IS an awful precipice before us. But he was wrong about the leap. There's a difference between jumping and being pushed. You reach a point where you are forced to face your own needs. And the fact that you can't terminate your
situation settles on you with full force. There is a dual nature to the addiction. It satisfies the hunger, but it also dulls our perception so we're helped to forget how ill we really are. We drink to escape the fact that we're alcoholics. Existence is the search for relief from our habit, and our habit is the only relief we can find."
To celebrate the completion of her dissertation and attainment of her Ph.D., Kathy decides to invite the dean, her professors, and some of her friends to a party at her apartment. On her way home, Kathy meets a prostelytizer who hands her a pamphlet. She invites him to come inside, but he refuses, the only one who has refused to let 'sin' in. As her
hunger grows again, Kathy rolls on the floor in agony, screaming repeatedly, "I will not submit!" But submit she finally does when, as the guests start arriving, she asks Jean, now a vampire herself, to bring her a girl on which to feed.
Feeling satiated, Kathy attends her party and, after a short speech during which she thanks the faculty and offers to share with everyone what she has learned during her years of study, she leaps at the dean's neck. Thereafter begins an horrific orgy in which Kathy and her vampire friends feast on the humans.
After drinking her fill and then some, Kathy begins to feel ill and, like a sick drunk, wanders the streets, talking to herself, covered with blood, and barfing on the sidewalk. She winds up in the hospital again. In an attempt to end her existence, she asks the nurse to open the blinds. As the sunshine slowly descends over Kathy's body, the blinds are suddenly
closed and Casanova is standing there. "We're not evil because of the evil we do," Casanova says. "We do evil because we ARE evil."
"Bleeding trees waiting for Judgement Day when we can all hang ourselves from our own branches." [Dante]
A priest stops by to visit and Kathy begs for absolution. He does and she apparently passes on. In the very confusing final scene, Kathy places a rose on her own grave in broad daylight and walks away, having repented her bloodlust and is reborn as human flesh once again.
"In the end, we stand before the light and our true nature is revealed. Self-revelation is annhilation of self." [Kathy Conklin]
Original Synopsis by bj_kuehl.