With legendary film auteur John Cassavetes as their father and Oscar-nominated actor Gena Rowlands as their mom, it must have seemed inevitable that at least one of the Cassavetes children would become a filmmaker.

But all three?

Alexandra "Xan" Cassavetes laughs when asked if film was a destiny pre-written for the Cassavetes brood: The 47-year-old writer-director's brother Nick, 53, and sister Zoe, 42, are also directors.

Cassavetes this week follows up her 2004 documentary, Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession with the vampire love story Kiss of the Damned.

"I didn't plan to be a director until I was 35. For years I wanted to do anything but!" said Cassavetes, who spent her 20s as the singer for the hard-core punk band Shrine.

Film came much later.

"Nick started first, and then Zoe. I was the last one to join the whole filmmaking regime," she said.

Regime as in diet, or as in political leadership?

"Regime as in a passionate crusade," said Cassavetes. She reminisced about a childhood home where film was a live concern, a daily nourishment for her parents.

"Our parents neither encouraged nor discouraged us when it came to becoming filmmakers," said Cassavetes. "We saw them doing it, and it looked like fun. It didn't seem like a job."

A thoughtful, sensual drama, Kiss of the Damned stars Heroes' Milo Ventimiglia as Paolo, a disillusioned screenwriter who is holed up in a small Connecticut town in a bid to finish his masterwork.

Sparks fly when he runs into the strange, melancholy Djuna at a downtown shop. French singer-actor Joséphine de La Baume is at turns sexually ferocious and withdrawn, predatory and passive as Djuna, who lives a lonely existence in a large mansion.

Kiss of the Damned has a highly stylized, retro 1970s look that calls to mind the work of Jean Rollin (The Shiver of the Vampires) and Harry Kümel (Daughters of Darkness), European masters of sensual horror and artful sleaze.

It's not gory by today's standards, using violence and sexuality in a highly modulated way to accentuate the drama, not to shock.

"I wanted to make an adult vampire film, not something for children," said Cassavetes, who has two children Veronica, 15, and John, 13, with her ex-husband, movie producer Rick Ross.

Reviews have been mixed to positive, with fans extolling Kiss of the Damned as an antidote to teen vamp films such as Twilight.

"I saw [Twilight] . . . with my daughter," she said. "I thought it was appropriate for kids and a lovely story about first love when things are pre-sexual."

Kiss of the Damned engages with different issues. "It's a very personal film. So much of it is about my own questions about the dynamics of love, about love and family," said Cassavetes.

In the film, Paolo pursues Djuna with a vengeance, but she refuses him. An avowed "vegetarian" who has forsworn human blood, she's afraid she may kill him. Eventually, she turns him into a vampire so they can enjoy their love forever.

The story's major conflict comes when Djuna's sister Mimi (Roxane Mesquida), a sociopath who revels in human blood, questions Djuna and Paolo's sedate domestic life.

"I think at its most mature, love is a very bourgeois state," said Cassavetes. "There is something about luxuriating in the nest of love that people fall into naturally."

Out of that nest arises morality, the lessons of "how as a moral and civilized person we're asked to check our own impulses . . . to have accountability as a person."

Heady issues for a vampire film!

"I guess I'm at an age where I'm looking back on relationships," said Cassavetes. "And I find it touching to look back at the idea of new love, of finding one's soul mate."

Contact staff writer Tirdad Derakhshani at 215-854-2736 or tirdad@phillynews.com