Article Thumbnail

‘Blade II’ Made Vampires Scary Again

With the second ‘Blade’ film, Guillermo Del Toro turned a superhero movie into a horror film about a vampire pandemic

With more and more movie streaming services popping up, it can feel impossible to keep track of what’s showing where. So to help, this October I’ll be recommending a different film every day from one such service that embodies the spooky spirit of the season. From classic Halloween movies to indie horror to campy dark comedies, this is 31 Days of a Very Chingy Halloween.

Today I’m looking at Blade II, Guillermo Del Toro’s vampiric virus film, currently streaming on HBO Max.

The Blade movies represent a certain period in superhero movies. The first film, starring Wesley Snipes as the leather-wearing, gun-and-sword-toting, no-nonsense vampire slayer came out in 1998 — right after Joel Schumacher nearly killed the genre with 1997’s campy Batman & Robin, but only a few years before Spider-Man and X-Men launched the craze anew. Bestowed with all of a vampire’s strengths but none of their weaknesses save for their thirst, Blade obliterated bloodsuckers with martial arts, lots of silver weaponry and an effortless cool that was a hit with audiences. In some ways, the film paved the way for The Matrix, with a dark trench coat and sunglasses-wearing hero revealing a secret world, be it virtual or vampiric, beneath the facade of a normal one. 

The original movie was packed tight with action and over-the-top style, starting with an underground blood rave and ending with Blade facing off against an ancient blood god. Yet, somehow, it’s Blade II that managed to be the cooler and more engaging movie. The sequel follows the Daywalker as he rescues his mentor and father figure Whistler (Kris Kristofferson) in Europe after he’s turned and kidnapped by vampires. But when a new, viral breed of vampires called Reapers start feeding on both humans and vampires alike, Blade is forced to team up with an elite band of vampire soldiers meant to hunt him if they hope to stop the fast-multiplying Reapers from destroying both of their civilizations.

Blade II was directed by the modern visionary of dark fantasy, Guillermo Del Toro (who’d garner much acclaim for films like Pan’s Labyrinth and that Oscar-winning movie where a human woman fucks a fishguy). Given his penchant for macabre, the second film is more straight-up horror than the first, which, for the most part, was an action movie with a dark setting. The gaunt Reapers, with their unfolding mouths, barbed tongues and clammy complexion are absolutely terrifying, coming across like a mixture of Alien’s xenomorphs and a bad batch of virus-based zombies, with an even more insatiable thirst and vicious temperament than most vampires themselves. 

The Reapers in Blade II are quite the mouthful

Blade has never been much of a character, with a stone-cold glare occasionally giving way to a smirk or leading him to dub someone a “motherfucker.” His defining trait, if any, is his fear of his own vampiric thirst. With the Reapers in Blade II, he’s presented with an endless enemy that takes his greatest anxiety to the most terrifying level. Here, Del Toro sought to make vampires scary again — and he very much succeeded in more ways than one.

To see a list of each of the previous entries, check out the A Very Chingy Halloween list on Letterboxd.