Halloween Scene: Blade (1998)

We as comic fans owe a lot to Blade. Not only did the movie show audiences and studios that comic book movies didn’t have to be corny, but also that they could be fun, good and play with different genres. These things had been done before, of course, but the Batman series of films did a lot to both elevate and then destroy people’s conceptions of what a superhero/comic book movie could be. Then Blade came along in 1998, which makes me feel quite old. I followed the movie’s progression in Wizard and was in full support of it like I was of every comic related project I ever heard or read about. I would have been about 15 when the movie came out and since it’s rated R–another brand new concept for the subgenre of movies based on Marvel or DC characters–so I probably didn’t see it in theaters but somewhere along the way I did and I dug it.

I watched it again on Friday and planned to do a Halloween Scene themed Friday Fisticuffs about it, but we wound up hanging out with friends Friday night and it got away from me. Overall, I’d say the movie holds up pretty well, but some of the special effects just look silly.

But first, the good. I like that the movie’s a well-balanced mix of horror and action. With the tragic backstory and F-bomb filled one-liners, the movie definitely feels like a 90s action flick. For me that’s a good thing, but I could imagine it would get to be too much for some. At the same time there’s a pretty cool vampire story going on here. The vamps are from different clans and somehow, some of them were born as vampires while others have been turned. The purebloods have built empires on every continent that help to supply them with blood, but also keep them unknown. Enter Deacon Frost, a non-pure blood who wants to bring about an ancient blood god who will turn everyone into a vampire so it won’t matter who came from who. I thought it was an interesting angle to take with the story, one that I most definitely hadn’t seen at that time and can’t recall seeing since, but that might just be because I’ve got a crummy memory.

The monster story elements might have been great, but the effects weren’t so great. I should clarify, the CGI effects are crap, the practical stuff looks fantastic and the jump from one to the other is pretty jarring. Take that epic opening action scene at the blood rave (everything about this scene is great, by the way, the soon-to-be victim plays it pitch perfectly). The teeth look great (the only way you can really tell someone’s a vamp), then Blade shows up and there’s some great action scenes, but as soon as the vamps start getting blasted they turn to dust which just look bad, especially because they have a weird spark inside. It makes me think about Buffy and how those effects looked pretty good. There’s also some pretty bad stuff going on at the end when a blood toxin thing gets introduced and the blood god kind of makes an appearance. I know there’s been a lot of talk of filmmakers going back and mucking with their films, but I would be in full support of Blade getting some new effects added in. Go back and watch that scene with the subway train and tell me it doesn’t look terrible.

I had a great time watching this flick again. Snipes is at his action star best, Stephen Dorff plays a great “low man on the totem pole trying to rise up” bad guy, Kris Kristofferson is absolutely awesome and reminds me of Sam Elliott in Road House and Donal Logue is great as the unlucky vampire henchman. If you haven’t seen the movie, I recommend it, if you haven’t seen it in a while, give it another look. I think you’ll dig it!

Halloween Scene: The Gate (1987)

Holy crap, you guys, I LOVED The Gate. I never saw it when I was a kid, but it’s exactly the kind of story I want to tell in my comics and writing with kids getting involved in some pretty heavy supernatural shit and figuring out how to stop a demon god on earth all on their own. In the case of The Gate, a 14-year-old but much younger looking Stephen Dorf finds himself along with his friend Terry and his older sister Al dealing with an ever-growing supernatural presence after a tree in their backyard gets exploded by lightning revealing a hole to hell–which seems a little too easy to fill in throughout the movie if you ask me.

Thanks to a series of accidents (a cut hand and the burial of a dead animal) the boys find themselves mostly responsible for a small army of tiny demons getting out (mini monsters, though not the ones I remember), a ton of weird illusions (levitation, homes), zombies and a full-on demon like something out of latter Buffy seasons when they actually had a budget. Luckily Terry has a European heavy metal album that reprints an ancient tome in the album that basically explains everything that’s going on. And if you play the record backwards, it explains how to send the demon back to hell. Of course, things don’t go as planned and things end after a different kind of attack, one that, if I were to summarize it would sound so silly you’d never watch the movie so I will refrain.

What I love about the movie is that it seems so inherently from my childhood. You don’t see movies like this anymore with kids facing off against crazy horror threats. At least from the States, The Substitute did a hell of a job. The movie’s not particularly gory, but there are some pretty intense sense both of the supernatural and the social type. Dorf gets levitated in a room full of his sister’s friends, freaks out, falls and starts crying before running up to his room. The best part is that NO ONE but him thinks that’s weird. “It was just an illusion.” THE KID FLEW. Overall the sisters’ friends are absolute assholes, especially when it comes to the death of the family pet. There’s also a scene where his sister seems to choose her friends over her own brother the night after the pet death. I don’t have an old sibling, but I can only imagine what that would feel like, especially after she saw the crazy shit going on the night before.

The Gate’s kind of a mix of Goonies, E.T., The Lost Boys with a little Troll 2 in there. It’s not a perfect movie by any means and you’ve got to watch it with a bit of a smirk, but I had a ball watching it. For the most part, the special effects hold up, even though you can see the screen separation between the mini demons (who were full sized people at a forced perspective according to the IMDb Trivia page) and the main characters, but I like the way they did this better than simply dressing up little people. There’s some stuff with insects that was particularly creepy, especially because there was a huge beetle-thing flying around the light right next to be while I watched this movie on Comcast in my in-laws’ living room last night. Ambiance y’all. I wonder what kids today would think of this movie. I’d be cautious to show it to anyone under 10, depending on how they take other movies. Now that I think about it, Harry Potter and friends have gone up against some pretty disturbing villains that I’m not sure I’d want my younger children see. But hey, Harry had a wand, Dorf and Terry just had a rocket and a heavy metal record, so take THAT!