Aqua Teen Hunger Force was pretty popular with the stoners when I was in college. I understood the appeal, but I always thought it was just a little bit too crass for it’s own good. However, there is one ATHF joke that blew me away when I saw it ten years ago and which still cracks me up when I think about it now. The set up is simple: some ghosts are trying to get the Hunger Forcers to move out of their house by pulling your typical poltergeist-y tricks on them – making disturbing noises, throwing objects around, etc. The final scene in the episode takes place on the front lawn, where the ghosts have made the lawn sprinklers spray blood instead of water. Suddenly Glenn Danzig – the macabre rocker who is so literal he actually wrote a song called “Mother” that was aimed at scaring the parents of his fans – rolls up, sees the blood spray and immediately puts an offer in to buy the house. Which is, of course, the exact opposite effect of what the ghosts were going for.
Given how much I love that joke you can probably imagine how delighted I was when Blade opened up with a scene that was full of blood sprinklers.
However, I don't want to get ahead of myself - before I go into depth on that scene I should probably set the table for the uninitiated. Blade’s mother was attacked by a vampire while she was nine months pregnant and the attack turned hew newborn son into a half-vampire half-human hybrid. Basically, he needs to drink blood, but unlike the other bloodsuckers he can walk around in sunlight without exploding into flames. His entire life has been devoted to avenging that early attack by exploding the undead with extreme prejudice, and as such he has built up quite the arsenal of violent toys – he always goes into battle with his trick sword, holy water bombs, and he even has flashlights that are jerry rigged with ultraviolet light bulbs that will melt any vampire they shine their light on. The Blade franchise is easily the goriest back corner of the Marvel Comics Universe, which would go become exclusively PG-13 once this series wrapped up.
Anyway, the first Blade movie begins with a naïve kid being lead into an underground rave by a hot woman he clearly doesn't know very well. As soon as he’s in the club he gets a bad vibe – all the other dancers are dancing a little too aggressively. When the only exit doors are locked he gets even more paranoid. And then when the blood sprinklers turn on and everyone around him grows fangs he starts making a real serious “I just fucked up!” face.
Of course, if I was there I would be thinking “I fucked up”, too. But I wasn’t there. I was at home. And when you are at home it’s hard not to wonder about the logistics of those blood sprinklers. Clearly they had to be custom installed because they aren’t tapped into the city’s water supply, so who did their plumbing? Did they know what they were doing? They had to have some inklings when they connected the pipes to a vat of blood, right? For that matter who collected the reservoir of blood, and where did they get it? That's a lot of blood to collect - those sprinklers were on for a few minutes. Are the blood collecters mad that the blood they labored to collect is being wasted like this? Because it truly is getting wasted – it is their food, but very little of it is going in their mouths. It’s mostly covering their hair and clothes. Which makes me wonder: do they mind that they are getting so sticky? And do they wear their nice clothes to this club because they want to look good for the first half of the night or do they wear their garbage duds knowing that they are going to get permanently ruined by artificial arterial spray? Why did none of them bring rain ponchos for the sprinkler portion of the set? I would have brought a rain poncho.
Speaking of clothes: one thing I noticed was that the women in this scene were still wearing them. Now, I’m not trying to make a sexist point; if the undead want to murder rubes in their bras and panties instead of their birthday suits than who am I to judge? But I couldn’t help but notice how comfortable this film was with extreme gore but how uncomfortable it was with sex. Here you have a scene that is literally drenched in (presumably human) plasma, and yet, there was absolutely no nudity whatsoever. In fact, the whole movie is chaste – Blade flirts with a nurse that he saves but their relationship is basically platonic. I don’t want to state my case too strongly because Blade is not necessarily representative of the American cinematic canon, but I do think that this film’s extreme willingness to depict stabbings, shootings and explodings and it’s noticeable unwillingness to depict any overtly sexual behavior says something about America’s attitudes towards sex and violence.
Anyway, at the last minute Blade breaks into the blood orgy and saves the kid by murdering every non-human in the entire club in less time than it would take to warm up a Hot Pocket. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie is all downhill from there – there are some decent fight scenes in the film's middle, but the opening blood-rave was the last silly idea that the movie was willing to indulge. Once the “we have to summon the blood-god!” plot kicks into gear – which is actually almost an hour into the movie; the script is structured rather oddly – the movie commits to being serious to an annoying degree. I lay a lot of that blame on Stephen Dorff, who plays the main vampire Deacon Frost, and who seemed to be trying to method-act his way into evilness when he should be camping it up and chewing the scenery. His earnest brooding just didn’t belong in the movie at all, particularly since everyone else seemed to understand that they are in a pretty pulpy movie.
I can understand why gorehounds would like this movie; it certainly delivers on the action front. And I can understand why comic book fans would like this movie; the world it’s building is kind of goofy, but it builds it earnestly and with some imagination. And of course I can understand why Wesley Snipes fans would love it; he’s great as Blade, very fluid in the fight scenes and likeably wry in the dialogue scenes. But this was not for me. As the movie went on it became more and more clear that the entertaining blood sprinkler scene was an outlier, and the rest of the movie was going to be a tedious string of stabbings – many of them enacted with really bad 90’s CGI. But at least there was that blood sprinkler scene. You can be crass, you can be unpleasant, but If you give me one of those then you’ll always be at least a little bit on my good side.