Pow! There goes another limb. Oof! And a head. Aaargh! Is that a pancreas? Squelch! Nope, think it’s a kidney. Welcome, boys and girls, to the cartoon carnage of Blade II.
Thought the first one was violent? Trust us, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. And, frankly, hallelujah for that because, as horror sequels go, Guillermo Del Toro’s gore-drenched follow-up to Stephen Norrington’s vastly underrated 1999 cult hit is up there with the best of them.
Infused with a frenetic, manga-esque tempo that actually outdoes its predecessor for pace (you won’t draw breath for the first 30 minutes, guaranteed), a balls-to-the-wall gallows humour, and some of the most inventive effects choreography this side of, erm, Blade, fans of stylised comic book mayhem need look no further.
Picking up the action (quite literally) immediately after the events of part one, Snipes’ eponymous anti-hero finds himself in Prague, persevering on his quest to eradicate the world of those “blood-guzzling motherfuckers”. He’s also keen to track down old buddy/father figure Whistler, a man whom everyone — not least Kristofferson, who spends much of the two hours looking rather bewildered — thought had bitten the bullet last time around. (This is a movie about resurrecting the dead, after all.)
Here, though, Blade has very much accepted his lot as the baddest ass on the block. Gone are his philosophical musings and pensive stares, replaced by an insatiable bloodlust. Look out, vampire bad guys, he’s really starting to enjoy this now.
Goss as Nomak, meanwhile, is a joy. No, seriously. Continuing the Stephen Dorff, pretty-boy-turned-nasty trend of the original, his turn as Blade’s newfangled nemesis is by turns terrifying and intentionally camp. As the leader of vicious new strain, The Reapers, he does of course have some truly exceptional special effects to fall back on in the rare moments when shades of Drop The Boy briefly shine through.
And oh, those Reaper effects. An ingenious blend of Predator (their jaws opening out into gaping voids), Salem’s Lot (think the teeth) and Alien (as if all that weren’t enough, they’re equipped with a mouth within a mouth), this new breed is a consistent technological marvel.
Minor downsides are, arguably, The Bloodpack’s underwritten individual characterisations (surely an issue of time constraints) and a bizarre credit sequence monologue which sets the scene with much the same crassness as Knight Rider’s ‘lone crusader’ opening salvo. But ultimately, Del Toro marks his return to the big budget arena he has avoided since Mimic with aplomb. Think what James Cameron did with Aliens, and you’re about there.