Odds and Dead Ends: Why Blade’s introduction is a cut above the rest

I make no apologies for discussing Blade, especially when the topic of black vampires comes up. To me, Snipes is the black vampire, at least until we rightfully bring more well known black nightwalkers to the canonical party. And though there’s a new Blade movie in the works for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (just when it’ll come out, who will direct it, where it will come out, are all questions up in the debating room air), and Del Toro did a decent job with Blade 2 in 2002 (we ignore 2005’s Blade Trinity), nothing will fully compare to the opening 10 minutes of the 1998 film, and its near-perfect introduction to the character.

First, a refresher. A young man is taken to a nightclub deep inside a meat-packing plant, and they have to go past rows of animal carcasses to get there. Once inside, it seems like a typical nightclub, with hundreds of teens dancing to rave music in strobe lights. Our young man tries to join in, but is pushed away by the dancers. Then a spot of blood drops onto his hand. The lights come up and the DJ reveals the words ‘Bloodbath.’ Suddenly the sprinklers kick in all over the rave and drench the room in torrents of blood. The young man, confused, tries to escape, but everyone in the room has now turned on him, flashing fangs and snarling. The vampires close in on him. He trips and tries to crawl away before he ends up at a big, clean, leather boot. The crowd parts, the air gets heavy. “It’s the daywalker,” someone says.

Without a word, the action commences. Snipes lunges into action, shooting and spearing, punching, and karate-kicking any vampire nearby, turning them to fire and dust. Soon the vampire security come in, all dressed in black leather, ready to do battle. Blade takes out his namesake sword and traces an arc on the floor. Nobody gets closer than this, it says. And it holds true. Leaping through the air like a wire-fu master, Blade slices and dices, his black leather coat swishing as his attacks come off like dance choreography. When the human police arrive, he leaves one vampire burning, another to take the blame, and escapes through a drain into the windy, moonlit city night.

We must have a little appreciation for the context of the film. Marvel Comics weren’t at the full height of their powers at this time. It would be another ten years before Iron Man began the blockbuster run they’re on now. The Matrix, with all its anime-inspired fight scenes, cyberpunk trenchcoats, and synthwave soundtrack, wouldn’t come out until the year after this. And Blade wasn’t a household name at the time (according to my brief research of the topic), and though he’d appeared in plenty of stories, he wasn’t exactly up to the same reputation as Spider-Man or The Incredible Hulk.

Blade was therefore a daring film to undertake, especially with Marvel and New Line putting $45m on a fairly unknown quantity. So the introduction had to be just right. Spoiler: it was.

It’s vital that the audience fears the vampires. Yes they are teenagers with half their clothes off in the rave, but there’s cunning behind them. There’s a deliberate decision to have the rave in a meat-packing plant behind hundreds of carcasses. There’s a calculation to hold off on mindlessly attacking him until the right time, pushing him away and making both him, and us as an audience, uncomfortable. There’s something deliberate in waiting for the blood to start pouring before striking. There’s something about being covered in blood, and enjoying it, which turns them from humans into vicious pack animals. And there must have been long, logistical thought in how to get all that blood into the sprinklers, and not turning it on until they knew there was a human in the rave to get the full effect. Every vampire knows the plan. It’s cold and calculated, all designed to elicit the maximum amount of fear in the young man, and therefore us.

But then Snipes appears. The hush that falls over the room is beautiful. Blade allows his presence to linger. We’re allowed to see that his attire is spotless. His eyes are hidden. He’s confident and poised. Not only that, but that cold, calculated understanding of the vampires has suddenly turned to fear. Through them, we understand that this character must be important, well known, and a threat. The bloodbath ends and the music quietens down. We feel the tension in the marrow of our bones.

Without uttering a word, the fight scene kicks in. Blade wastes no time showing off a variety of techniques and skills, from gunplay to martial arts, shooting stakes into vampires, using his sword and his glaives (bladed boomerangs). We understand instantly that he’s skilled, knowledgeable, and can adapt to the situation. There’s a nice little setup when he throws his stake-shooting gun across the floor, only to collect it near the end of the fight and impale the final vampire to the wall. It reminds me very much of the old gun-in-the-flowerpot idea from action movies of old. Blade has the right combination of instinct and strategy and brings the sense that he enjoys hunting the creatures down.

It’s this enjoyment of the task which makes this entrance work. Not only do we know that we’re going to be in for a hell of a ride thanks to the directing style, fight choreography, etc, but that Blade smiles when he’s drenched in the blood and ashes of monsters of the undead means that we also get a sense of enjoyment. We know we’re in safe hands, and so we can, in a way, get a secondary kick of catharsis from the scene. If this stranger, who can instill such fear in the monsters of the night, is fighting them off without saying a word, but flashing bright white teeth as he goes about his work, then maybe we can get behind him and enjoy the ride.

There’s very much the feel of an old Western cowboy to Blade, emphasised by the swirling newspapers in the alley as he escapes like tumbleweeds. The drawing of the tip of the blade along the floor in the fight is also similar to the way a cowboy movie might set up a duel. We draw upon subconscious film archetypes within ourselves to understand the scenario. Despite being dressed in black, it’s very clear who the good guys and bad guys are here. And so we return to thinking of Blade, in a way, as John Wayne or Clint Eastwood. We’ve got a natural inclination to get behind these characters, and as we draw the parallels, we put our chips behind Blade. The lone gunman, come to save the town and disappear again.

Everything in this opening sequence is constructed for maximum impact. Drawing upon tropes and ideas from a wide range of genres, the sequence comes in roughly two halves. First, setting up the terror and threat of the vampires, and then using Blade to diffuse our tension, as well as giving us some fighting excitement. It works because, besides the acting, direction, music, cinematography, costumes, and all the other bits and pieces of film form, it’s simply well made. It’s well set up, with clear stakes and conflict, a good fight scene which isn’t too choppily edited, and introduces the character of Blade through mostly visuals (he speaks a couple of lines near the end but that’s it). He’s strong, dangerous, and perhaps a little unhinged (anyone who enjoys slicing up vampires in the way he does must be a little bit wrong behind the eyes). You could watch it without dialogue and it still works. It’s a perfect introduction to one of horror’s greatest vampire anti-heroes.

It Came From the Vault : Guest Blog: KBatz – The Blade Series

vault

Here is a great vault guest contribution on December 27, 2012. This comes from our own Kbatz when she sent in a guest review…….

 

Such Promise, But Blade Sequels Lacking

By Kristin Battestella

When it came time to continue our Halloween movie marathon with Blade II and Blade Trinity, it was soon apparent that the series lost some of its edge since 1998’s Blade. Cool technology and vampire dustings can’t save this Wesley Snipes train.

His mother was attacked while in labor, and thus Blade (Snipes) is born half human, half vampire.  Raised by weapons master and vampire hunter Whistler (Kris Kristofferson, Millennium), daywalker Blade hates vampires and struggles with his need for blood.  Young vampire Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff, Backbeat) uses Blade’s weakness for Dr. Karen Jensen ( N’Bushe Wright) against him and seeks to capture Blade for his unique blood.

Blade establishes its universe and vampire set of rules firmly and sticks to itself almost to the end.  The film went through several rewrites and re shoots before coming up with its best but still lacking ending.  Initially, the devices and dustings in Blade’s very impressive opening are cool, but after so many years of Buffy, I’m a bit tired of vampires exploding or burning to ash in visually cool ways-or better yet with quips and great humor.  Stake them and kill them already.

It might be odd to say it so, but I much prefer the bad ass blackness Blade brings to the vampire genre.  Previously, African American vampires were somewhat of a joke or parody- turned slaves, or voodoo fiends.  Eddie Murphy’s Vampire In Brooklyn didn’t help.  Thankfully, Blade fills another gap in this urban minority horror genre. There’s edge, conflict, and intelligence for the most part.

Blade is also a comic fan’s dream, with references and allusions to numerous comic books and heroes.  Without the popularity of this first film, we might not have had the comic film boom and franchises like X-Men or Spiderman.  I can’t fault the comic origins for director Stephen Norrington’s emphasis on the explosive finally rather than Blade’s torment over being half human/half vampire-which dominates the early part of the movie.  I’ve read many a dark and serious comic book.

Blade II (2002) picks up two years after the first film.  A new subset of reaper fiends is hunting vampires, and Blade must unite with a vampire task team before the hunters upset the underground balance between humans and vampires.  Screenwriter David S. Goyer (Batman Begins) brings Whistler back under some pretty thin circumstances, but some of the better dialogue is between Whistler and new tech boy Scud (Norman Reedus, The Boondocks Saints).  Ron Perlman-now of Hellboy fame-is sufficiently bad ass as vampire henchman Reinhardt, but the silly detonator beacon that Blade sticks to the back of his bald head takes the kick ass down a step.

It’s strange to say I miss Stephen Dorff, but his asinine hedonist style was at least believable to a degree, unlike the decrepit vampire eaters here.  How many times must they get whacked, shot, and tossed through windows?  Blade II lets action and effects take over the more somber elements from the original film, which Goyer can clearly write about if Batman Begins is an example.  Isn’t Blade still conflicted about his dual nature?  Are we supposed to care if he is?  Blade II would have the viewer think not.  Skim on story, sure, but action fans will dig Blade II and its creepy cool devouring sequences.

2004’s Blade Trinity starts out promising.  After Blade is set up by familiars and kills a human, he is taken to the authorities.  New vampire villain Danica (Parker Posey) can’t keep Blade, for he is rescued by Abbie (Jessica Biel), Whistler’s illegitimate daughter, and Hannibal King (Ryan Reynolds) an ex vampire.  Together the trio must destroy Drake aka Dracula.

I like Dominic Purcell on Prison Break, but he’s nearly impossible to take seriously as Dracula.  He’s worthy of the tough ass Blade we’ve known for two movies? Come on. Blade has its own vampire universe, why even bring a seven thousand year old Dracula into it? Trinity starts out so realistic; Blade in the news and being chased by cops-and the extended edition gives us more dialogue and explanations. Unfortunately, somewhere halfway through, we end up with dues ex machina vampire cures, gadgets, and history.  Ryan Reynolds’ (Waiting) comic relief is not needed because we’ve fallen into such unbelievably again.  Blade was already the black hip post Buffy vampire.  We didn’t need a tag team of pretty white kids cracking jokes.  American Pie’s Natasha Lyonne as a blind scientist? Are you serious?

Trinity seems to go for some cult stunt casting with this crew, including Parker Posey, who normally is great fun as the cute or bitchy hip chick like Dazed and Confused and You’ve Got Mail. Here unfortunately, she’s made to be one stupid and ugly vampire.  What happened to the original vampire organizations established in the first film?  Where is Karen and her hematologist realism?  Dividing the issues of cures and vampire origins among a young, sexy white cast is not in the spirit of Blade.    Unless you’re a die hard fan of the Wesley Snipes and the comic books, I’d rather watch Blade ten times over before I view Blade II and Trinity again. After these two disastrous sequels, why would anyone tune into the short livedBlade: The Series?

I never thought myself so sappy, but audiences who love the tragic romantic vampires ala Interview With A Vampire won’t enjoy the action and fast paced style of the Blade series.  There’s enough story and establishment of its universe with Blade for serious enjoyment, and action and gore enough for those fans in Blade II and Trinity.  Unfortunately, the lack of consistency and further suspension too far into unbelievability doesn’t give this trilogy much repeat viewing.  Blade should have been much more than kick ass.

Guest Blog: KBatz – The Blade Series

Such Promise, But Blade Sequels Lacking

By Kristin Battestella

When it came time to continue our Halloween movie marathon with Blade II and Blade Trinity, it was soon apparent that the series lost some of its edge since 1998’s Blade. Cool technology and vampire dustings can’t save this Wesley Snipes train.

His mother was attacked while in labor, and thus Blade (Snipes) is born half human, half vampire.  Raised by weapons master and vampire hunter Whistler (Kris Kristofferson, Millennium), daywalker Blade hates vampires and struggles with his need for blood.  Young vampire Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff, Backbeat) uses Blade’s weakness for Dr. Karen Jensen ( N’Bushe Wright) against him and seeks to capture Blade for his unique blood.

Blade establishes its universe and vampire set of rules firmly and sticks to itself almost to the end.  The film went through several rewrites and re shoots before coming up with its best but still lacking ending.  Initially, the devices and dustings in Blade’s very impressive opening are cool, but after so many years of Buffy, I’m a bit tired of vampires exploding or burning to ash in visually cool ways-or better yet with quips and great humor.  Stake them and kill them already.

It might be odd to say it so, but I much prefer the bad ass blackness Blade brings to the vampire genre.  Previously, African American vampires were somewhat of a joke or parody- turned slaves, or voodoo fiends.  Eddie Murphy’s Vampire In Brooklyn didn’t help.  Thankfully, Blade fills another gap in this urban minority horror genre. There’s edge, conflict, and intelligence for the most part.

Blade is also a comic fan’s dream, with references and allusions to numerous comic books and heroes.  Without the popularity of this first film, we might not have had the comic film boom and franchises like X-Men or Spiderman.  I can’t fault the comic origins for director Stephen Norrington’s emphasis on the explosive finally rather than Blade’s torment over being half human/half vampire-which dominates the early part of the movie.  I’ve read many a dark and serious comic book.

Blade II (2002) picks up two years after the first film.  A new subset of reaper fiends is hunting vampires, and Blade must unite with a vampire task team before the hunters upset the underground balance between humans and vampires.  Screenwriter David S. Goyer (Batman Begins) brings Whistler back under some pretty thin circumstances, but some of the better dialogue is between Whistler and new tech boy Scud (Norman Reedus, The Boondocks Saints).  Ron Perlman-now of Hellboy fame-is sufficiently bad ass as vampire henchman Reinhardt, but the silly detonator beacon that Blade sticks to the back of his bald head takes the kick ass down a step.

It’s strange to say I miss Stephen Dorff, but his asinine hedonist style was at least believable to a degree, unlike the decrepit vampire eaters here.  How many times must they get whacked, shot, and tossed through windows?  Blade II lets action and effects take over the more somber elements from the original film, which Goyer can clearly write about if Batman Begins is an example.  Isn’t Blade still conflicted about his dual nature?  Are we supposed to care if he is?  Blade II would have the viewer think not.  Skim on story, sure, but action fans will dig Blade II and its creepy cool devouring sequences.

2004’s Blade Trinity starts out promising.  After Blade is set up by familiars and kills a human, he is taken to the authorities.  New vampire villain Danica (Parker Posey) can’t keep Blade, for he is rescued by Abbie (Jessica Biel), Whistler’s illegitimate daughter, and Hannibal King (Ryan Reynolds) an ex vampire.  Together the trio must destroy Drake aka Dracula.

I like Dominic Purcell on Prison Break, but he’s nearly impossible to take seriously as Dracula.  He’s worthy of the tough ass Blade we’ve known for two movies? Come on. Blade has its own vampire universe, why even bring a seven thousand year old Dracula into it? Trinity starts out so realistic; Blade in the news and being chased by cops-and the extended edition gives us more dialogue and explanations. Unfortunately, somewhere halfway through, we end up with dues ex machina vampire cures, gadgets, and history.  Ryan Reynolds’ (Waiting) comic relief is not needed because we’ve fallen into such unbelievably again.  Blade was already the black hip post Buffy vampire.  We didn’t need a tag team of pretty white kids cracking jokes.  American Pie’s Natasha Lyonne as a blind scientist? Are you serious?

Trinity seems to go for some cult stunt casting with this crew, including Parker Posey, who normally is great fun as the cute or bitchy hip chick like Dazed and Confused and You’ve Got Mail. Here unfortunately, she’s made to be one stupid and ugly vampire.  What happened to the original vampire organizations established in the first film?  Where is Karen and her hematologist realism?  Dividing the issues of cures and vampire origins among a young, sexy white cast is not in the spirit of Blade.    Unless you’re a die hard fan of the Wesley Snipes and the comic books, I’d rather watch Blade ten times over before I view Blade II and Trinity again. After these two disastrous sequels, why would anyone tune into the short lived Blade: The Series?

I never thought myself so sappy, but audiences who love the tragic romantic vampires ala Interview With A Vampire won’t enjoy the action and fast paced style of the Blade series.  There’s enough story and establishment of its universe with Blade for serious enjoyment, and action and gore enough for those fans in Blade II and Trinity.  Unfortunately, the lack of consistency and further suspension too far into unbelievability doesn’t give this trilogy much repeat viewing.  Blade should have been much more than kick ass.

1970’s books

When I was looking for horror books for the seventies it didn’t take long for me to come up with a list of books to talk about. The seventies and eighties were a great time for horror novels.  One of the most intriguing books I found was one written in 1972 called The Werewolf vs. Vampire Women by Arthur N Scram. This book is supposed to be an adaptation of a movie that was released  under the same name in 1971 but according to what I read, the book doesn’t follow the movie.  The book begins in a morgue where a  man called Waldo who happens to be a werewolf  is lying in a morgue on a table with a  silver bullet in him. The mortician removes the bullet and Waldo springs to life killing the mortician. Waldo the werewolf then goes out into the world and finds two female med students who are doing a masters thesis on a vampire queen named Wandessa de Nadasdy. Waldo hates vampires so he decides with the help of the female med students that he his going to find this queen and kill her. This books sound just corny enough to be entertaining.

Another book I wanted to mention was written in 1979 called The Majorettes by John Russo who was one of the co writers of Night Of The Living Dead.  This book was written at the same time that slasher movies were becoming popular. The story begins when  high school nerd Tommy Harvack who has a crush on a majorette named Nicole Hendricks, goes to meet her in the woods. Unfortunately for them they get murdered while on the rendezvous. The killer is not stopping there though, he has his sites set on killing the whole majorette squad. Can the police stop him in time? The Majorettes was originally meant to be a movie but when Russo could not get funding for it, he made it into a novel instead. A movie was finally released based on The Majorettes in 1987.

The 1970s also brought us a comic book that ran from 1972 to 1979 called Tomb of Dracula. This title was published by Marvel Comics, it was written by Marv Wolfman, drawn be Gene Colan and inked by Tom Palmer. The story for Tomb of Dracula was that Dracula was revived in the present day 1970’s and is being hunted by the decedents of the vampire hunters that once killed him. Tomb of Dracula also marked the first appearance of Blade who had his own comic series, TV series and three movies.

If your going to talk about books of the 1970’s you have to to mention the biggest horror author of all, Stephen King. King’s first novel was released in 1974 called Carrie. Carrie as you probably know tells the story of a shy girl in high school who discovers that she has telekinetic powers and uses them to take revenge on the  classmates that made fun of her.

My favorite Stephen King novel was his second novel which was released in 1975 called Salem’s Lot. Salem’s Lot follows the story of a man named Ben Mears who grew up in Salem’s Lot Massachusetts. He moved away when he was 12 but has now returned to find the town a very different place. The streets are deserted in the daytime, the town has been infected by vampires and only a few town residents are left to stop the vampires from taking over. I don’t feel that I have to say to much about Salem’s Lot here because most people reading this blog probably at least know the story from the 1979 mini series or the 2004 mini series which followed the book closely. Salem’s lot was heavily influenced by Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House which was recently mentioned in this blog.

Sticking with the subject of vampires, I feel I also need to mention Anne Rice’s Interview With A Vampire which was written in 1973 and released in 1976. The story for Interview With A Vampire follows Louis as he tells the story of his life over the last 200 years. Interview With The Vampire spawned 11 sequels that I know of and also had a movie made on it in 1994.

What’s your favorite 1970’s horror novel? Leave a comment and let us know.

Guest Blog: Immortals I Love, Vampires I Don’t Love – Kimberly Steele

When I write vampires, I find it difficult to make any rules for them aside from they have to drink human blood at regular intervals to stay alive.  I like the glampire aristocrats of Anne Rice with their whole set of problems with going out in the sun but I just don’t like writing them at least for the time being.  I’m more fascinated by Virginia Woolf’s take on immortality with the character of Orlando.  He/She is a great character, but what I love the most is the only “rule” is that Orlando cannot die.

As far as vampire as monster, like the vamps in the comic/movie series Blade, they are cool as hell but my whole thing is that average people are the real monsters.  I like juxtaposing the reality of vampires (who in my mind are serial killers who live forever) with average people who do terrible things, yet unlike the vampires, do not wrestle with their conscious.

I don’t like vampires that are too perfect.   The oh-so-sexy beautiful vampire with perfect features only works for me if he’s portrayed by Alexander Skarsgard.  God that boy is hot.  He could play a jar of Play Doh in an performance art rendition of Our House and I’d probably find it compelling, but I digress.  I’m also tired of the half-breed vampire human thing used in both Blade and Underworld.  It’s stupid and cliche–please, let’s move on.

Twilight’s vampires are too soft–I don’t care how much Edward blueballs Bella, but couldn’t he eat something higher on the food chain then venison once in a while?

What kinds of depictions of vampires do you think are the most fascinating?  What aspects of vampire characters do you dislike?