Mexican FX slinger turned grue auteur Guillermo del Toro is, as the youngsters say, "the shiznit." No one in mainstream Hollywood is flinging buckets of blood and oozing creatures at the camera like THIS guy. He first drew the attention of CineSchlockers by making comely Mira Sorvino chase overgrown cockroaches through the icky wiles of the Manhattan sewer system. Now, he's skillfully conjured a crimson cyclone of carnage known as Blade II (2002, 117 minutes), arguably among the most anticipated sequels of recent memory. How run-of-the-mill fans stack it up against the original will likely be dependent on whether they can avoid projectile puking their popcorn. Gorehounds, on the other severed hand, have a new idol in Gruesome Guillermo.
The movie: When last we found Blade (Wesley Snipes) he was skulking around Russky Land in search of his crusty adoptive papa Whistler (Kris Kristofferson) who'd messed around and got himself vampirized. Turns out he's been pickled in a giant fish bowl and only kept alive to provide the primary ingredient in bloodsucker "protein" shakes. Blade's original intention was to put the old dog down, but in this sequel, he's become something of a softie. Besides, if Whistler's 86'd who else is gonna clank around with a bum leg and hurl around chicken-fried insults?! Now there's a plot somewhere in between about 486,000 juiced up kung fu fights where Mr. Attitude whups the tar out of mean, nasty vampires. It has something or another to do with said suckheads coming to Blade for HELP in dealing with some new and improved vamps dubbed "Reapers" who scurry around like crackheads until their jawbones splay open like Jenna Jameson at a Britney Spears concert. Except these critters idea of oral gratification ain't loving or beautiful, no sir, it's downright DISGUSTING! Blade's got nothing better to do than waste these creepazoids, so he agrees to lead a team of sun-wary commandos including beastly CineSchlocker fave Ron Perlman who admirably attempts to out 'tude Mr. Snipes at every turn. There's also some kinky love story stuff mixed in with Leonor Varela as a vampire ninja seemingly powerless against Blade's razor-edged mojo. However things get way, way out of hand in the final reel when Norman Reedus (as "Scud") stinks up the joint with the worst monologue EVER delivered in a bloodsucking martial arts flick. Thankfully, this is countered by another half-dozen hiney tanning sequences with Blade leaping around like Bugs Bunny in a Ginsu commercial. CineSchlockers will remember Mr. Perlman already played this role in Alien: Resurrection, the bizarro earthquake epic Shakedown and a whole slew of other flicks. He's just so goldang GOOD at it! Almost makes up for his severely Lifetime-friendly "Beauty and the Beast" TV series.
Notables: No breasts. 261 corpses. Forehead licking. Blood Jacuzzi. One Freddy Krueger manicure. Gratuitous flashback sequences. Vampire rave. Gratuitous slow-mo strutting. Partial decapitation. Tazer attack. Compound fracture closeup. Ultraviolet explosives. Gratuitous bed of nails. Voluntary spine replacement. Razorblade tongue rasslin'.
Quotables: Whistler is curmudgeonly as ever, "They're s@#%in' bricks because they're no longer top of the food chain" and "Better getcha some sunscreen, buttercup!" Blade's just plain grumpy, "YOU OBVIOUSLY DON'T KNOW WHO YOU'RE F#%$ING WITH!!!" While Damaskinos (Thomas Kretschmann) contemplates deeper meanings, "Who do you really think God favors in the web? The spider or the fly?"
Time codes: Ubiquitous post-Matrix slow-mo bullet (7:30). Lee Marvin joins the picture (30:55). When Reapers say "Ahhh" it's really, really grody (49:05). Guillermo's ode to Alien Autopsy (59:58). Time for a little vampiric lovin' (1:20:35).
Audio/Video: Nearly faultless widescreen transfer if not for noticeable digital grain in some scenes. State-of-the-industry Dolby Digital EX 5.1, DTS ES 6.1 and stereo surround tracks for every aural thirst. There's even an isolated score.
Extras: Two overflowing discs worth beginning with a pair of first-rate commentaries. Del Toro and producer Peter Frankfurt's track zips right along under the sheer power of Guillermo's enthusiasm. And given the number of times he refers to it, there might be a slight possibility the flick's visual style is inspired by JAPANESE ANIME!!! But he can repeat himself all he wants if he keeps slinging that glorious grue around. Screenwriter David Goyer and Mr. Snipes bring a lot of humor to their track, both intentionally, and in how serious Wes is when gabbing about fighting styles (with accompanying sound effects). Frequent comparisons to the first flick punctuate both tracks.
On Disc Two there's an 80-MINUTE "interactive" documentary. What that means is at certain points a little doodad pops up on the screen and viewers can opt to watch more on that subject. There are five such detours totaling about 20 additional minutes. That's dang near as long as the flick itself! Of course, how interesting any of this is depends on one's opinion of the movie it's heralding. Beyond that is another 30 minutes of "sequence breakdowns," plus 30 or so minutes of deleted, alternate and extended scenes with optional commentary by Guillermo who concedes it's all "mostly crap." Massive image gallery. Unfilmed script pages. Illustrated notebooks by the director and a script supervisor (unfortunately they're too small to really see much). There's the typical CGI worship segments, but what CineSchlockers are really going to devour are the exceedingly cool video "Progress Reports" from the makeup and creature FX folks. Nearly an hour's worth of deliriously DROOL WORTHY closeups of Reaper innards and the like from concept to screen. Don't forget the theatrical trailers, DVD-ROM stuff, a gratuitous Blade videogame plug and, oh, the "Child of the Wild West" music video. Motion video menus with audio.
Final thought: Seemingly endless whirlwinds of pugilism. Geysers of meaty carnage. And that's just the bonus materials! Highly Recommended.
G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.