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Movie Review

Welcome to the world of the night, a place of shadows and secrecy where creatures from legends freely roam, shunning the light and seeking warm-blooded prey. This is the world of vampires. It is also the world of Blade, the half-human, half-vampire who has dedicated his life to hunting the undead. The first movie chronicled his attempt to bring down a vampire named Deacon Frost with the help of a widower-turned-vigilante named Whistler. Frost sought to resurrect the blood god La Magra and annihilate the human race; his defeat came at a heavy price. Whistler was captured, tortured and thought dead. But in Blade II we learn that Whistler has actually been infected with the vampire virus. Spread by saliva, vampires use the virus to add to their ranks. The change proves to be a blessing wrapped in a curse. While the resultant genetic aberrations bestow strength, agility and eternal "life," they also bring deadly allergies to garlic, silver, sunlight and a constant craving for blood (dubbed The Thirst).

Determined to save his friend, Blade (who shares all of the vampires’ strengths and none of their weaknesses) soon learns that a greater threat exists. A new strain of virus has created a vicious race called Reapers. Though animalistic and deformed, Reapers possess greater abilities than normal vampires. They’re immune to silver and garlic. They can heal broken bones in seconds. Their bifurcated jaws allow them to quickly and gruesomely drain their victims. And The Thirst rages in them like a crackhead’s craving, causing them to spread the infection at a lightning pace. Blade, Whistler and a stoner inventor named Scud suddenly find themselves in an uneasy alliance with the vampire nation and its ruler Damaskinos as they seek to eradicate the Reaper threat and the first infectee, Jared Nomak. Their only help is Damaskinos’ daughter Nyssa, his guard Reinhardt and an elite band of vampire soldiers (named the Bloodpack) initially created to hunt Blade himself.

positive elements: Blade refuses to leave Whistler in the vampires’ clutches, risking his life to save the old man and rid him of the virus. And when Blade’s life is in jeopardy, Whistler returns the favor. Even though Blade has dedicated his life to killing vampires, Nyssa comes to admire him as brave and honorable. [Spoiler Warning] She is also repulsed by her father’s ruthlessness and deceit when she learns he genetically engineered the Reapers in order to create a super vampire race, using his own son Jared as the first test subject.

spiritual content: When questioned about the morality of his plot, Damaskinos rhetorically asks, "Who do you think God really favors in the web? The spider or the fly?" Nyssa asks Blade why he hunts vampires and he responds, "It’s fate. It’s in my blood."

sexual content: Drinking blood is more than just nutrition for vampires; it has a sexual aspect as well. Scud says he first met Blade after the hunter saved his life from a ménage á trois involving two vampire vixens (he proceeds to lift his shirt, exposing a thick webwork of scars). In a safe-house/rave club named the House of Pain, vampires slit each others’ tongues with razor blades before french kissing. They also probe an exposed spinal column and drink with relish from a filleted wrist. One vampire frequents a strip club and an X-rated video store. Several scanty outfits get screen time.

violent content: It would take page after page to chronicle the myriad ways humans, vampires and Reapers are diced, torched, bludgeoned, impaled, shot, crushed, mutilated, beheaded, tortured, beaten, electrocuted and mauled. "Constant bloodletting and torment" barely scratches the surface.

In the first scene, Jared is discovered by vampires at a blood bank, strapped in a padded chair and prepared to have his blood drained by a needle-studded glove reminiscent of The Nightmare on Elm Street. He breaks free, grabs his nearest captor and fastens his fangs into her neck, spraying the walls with thick gouts of her blood. That sets the mood for the rest of the film. A frenetic industrial and hip-hop soundtrack provides the backbeat for Blade slicing his vampire victims with his silver sword, blasting them with a menagerie of pistols and attacking with slow motion, choreographed martial arts savagery. They shriek in agony and dissolve whenever exposed to silver, garlic or sunlight (the body count quickly reaches Saving Private Ryan proportions). Since Reapers cannot be killed except by sunlight, filmgoers repeatedly see them chopped, bashed and blasted, only to have their wounds heal for another graphic pummeling. Time and again, Jared and other Reapers messily feed on their prey, the camera lingering on the agonized expressions of their victims. Sadistic and brutal torture proves a useful tool for Blade, the Bloodpack, Damaskinos and the Reapers, blurring the line between the "good" guys and the bad guys.

crude or profane language: The f-word gets a hearty workout with over 25 uses. Around 50 profanities surface in total, along with a handful of crude and vulgar sexual expressions.

drug and alcohol content: A vampire guard snorts blood-laced cocaine. Before his untimely demise, a drug dealer offers Jared "Hawaiian Ice" and "Horse." In the House of Pain, vampires drink shots of blood. Scud rarely appears on screen without a joint in his mouth. When he offers a toke to Blade, the hunter responds, "Later."

conclusion: If the first Blade movie hadn’t come out before The Matrix, it would have been accused of cloning its slick, slo-mo, techno-ed action and adding its own gothic reality and buckets of blood. The sequel has only amped up those elements. More intricately choreographed martial arts battles. More extreme close-ups on exotic weapons designed to put maximum hurt on the undead. And more gory, gory horror. Like The Matrix, Blade II tells teens that elegantly shot violence is beautiful, but it goes a step farther. Director del Toro wants them to leave thinking that slit wrists, spurting arteries and gothic grime are lovely as well.

"[Del Toro] was weaned on comic books, as was I," said screenwriter David Goyer. It shows. Blade II keeps plot coherence, smart dialogue and character development to an absolute minimum. Its real loves are blazing bullets, breaking bones and steaming blood. While purchasing my ticket I watched a boy who couldn’t have been older than sixteen attempt to sneak into the film, only to be thwarted by a vigilant theater employee. Parents should do some thwarting of their own. Don’t let Blade II suck your sense of revulsion dry.


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