Blade 2 (18)

Review by Jack Foley

IT'S not very often that a sequel can be said to genuinely surpass its original in terms of concept, freshness and all-round enjoyability (see the debate in Scream 2 as evidence), but Blade 2 most definitely does that.

While observing all the rules of the sequel genre (more action, more special effects, more blood - lots more blood), Guillermo del Toro's rip-roaring follow-up to Stephen Norrington's 1999 cult favourite actually manages to emerge with an identity all of its own; rather like James Cameron's Aliens did after Ridley Scott's Alien.

Picking up a couple of years after the original left off, Blade 2 finds Wesley Snipes's mixed-up anti-hero in Prague, pursuing his quest to slay all vampires and to track down his father figure, Whistler (Kris Kristofferson), who looked to have bitten the bullet last time around.

But when a new threat to the vampire nation emerges (a type of super-vamp led by, wait for it (!), Luke Goss of Bros fame), Blade's sworn enemies turn to him as an ally in their bid to save themselves from the ultra-nasty bloodsuckers, before humans form the next part of the food chain.

And so the scene is set for Blade and his new army of slayers (much like the marines in Aliens) to march into battle against The Reapers, a mutated form of vampire who are immune to silver and garlic and who have a mouth within a mouth to inflict the maximum damage to victims.

Whether Blade can trust his new allies (led by Ron Perlman, on Alien Resurrection form), or even members of his own crew, is another question entirely, however, as Blade's presence among the vampire elite seems to form part of a much wider game plan.

Blade 2, while corny in places, manages to avoid most of the pitfalls of the dreaded sequel territory. For starters, it is far more than just a simple re-tread through the finer moments of the original, while its energy is as insatiable as the blood lust of its protagonists.

Del Toro (rapidly emerging as one of the coolest horror directors around after Mimic and The Devil's Backbone) opens proceedings at breakneck speed - with one dizzying set piece to follow another - and seldom lets up throughout, so that the pitfalls in acting are more than compensated by the breathless abandon of its action sequences. He also injects proceedings with a nice line in black humour, and only rarely drifts into cliche.

On the down side, the movie is devoid of any genuine emotion (Blade's inner turmoil is only touched upon, while the family betrayals which emerge towards the finale have very little impact), but then this is cartoon-style mayhem, with Blade, in particular, capable of emerging pretty much unscathed from the worst his enemies have to throw at him.

Special effects-wise, the movie also delivers, with The Creapers, in particular, likely to emerge in years to come as one of the classic creature creations of recent years, while del Toro's use of lighting and music creates a suitably sinister and pumped-up mood - Crystal Method's 'Calling All Freaks' is especially effective while Wesley lays waste to a room full of villains.

Viewers of a nervous disposition are advised to steer well clear, as are those with weak stomachs (for this really is blood-soaked fare), but for anyone seeking an adrenalin-fix on a par with The Matrix, then this provides plenty to sink your teeth into.