|Written by Bill Warren|
|Tuesday, 01 June 2004|
Director John Landis changed a lot of rules for the horror genre with his 1981 feature ‘An American Werewolf in London.’ It was finally possible for characters to acknowledge familiarity with horror movies and demonstrate a sense of humor toward their bizarre predicaments without sending up the whole situation. Landis moves from werewolves to vampires with ‘Innocent Blood.’ Scripted by Michael Wolk, ‘Blood’ isn’t quite as overt about bending boundaries as ‘Werewolf,’ but gets its licks in nonetheless, able to be simultaneously funny and creepy -- and occasionally quite sexy as well.
‘Blood’ gets off to an eye-catching start in Chapter 1, with an entirely naked, extremely lovely woman, Marie (Anne Parillaud) pacing through a candle-filled room as she shares her thoughts with us. Marie is thinking that she has had neither food nor sex in a long time. Her last lover left her because of her picky eating habits, as Marie will only feed on what she finds to be morally disagreeable. As we soon learn, Marie is a vampire, but she is loath to drink from the innocent.
Marie is very happy when warfare breaks out among New York Mafia factions, providing both lots of likely bad-guy meals and the means to cover up what she’s done after the fact. (She finishes off her victims with a shotgun to prevent them from returning as creatures of the night.) Alas, she isn’t able to completely obliterate her latest kill, gang boss Sal Micelli (Robert Loggia). When Micelli recovers from surprise at his transformation, he decides to strengthen his crime family by giving new meaning to the concept of "made men." It’s up to Marie and a dedicated human cop (Anthony LaPaglia) to stop Micelli before he and his expanding crew take over the city.
Landis sets a cheerful, zestily energetic tone, with emphatic action and sweetly daffy romance. There’s a twinkly, highly erotic love scene in Chapter 24 which graphically illustrates the concept of trust as a component of sex. This coexists with a lot of bloodshed and some memorably disturbing imagery. Chapter 6 has a jolting audio scare that may knock the unwary out of their chairs, accompanied by a weird visual, and Chapter 23 combines Monty Python absurdity with unsettling special effects, made perhaps even more effective by the iconographic presence of Don Rickles in the scene.
Frank Sinatra tunes are appropriately woven into the soundtrack throughout. Steve Johnson created the special make-up effects which, strangely enough, look odd in coming attractions but work like gangbusters in context. The snappy, mostly nighttime cinematography is by Mac Ahlberg.
‘Innocent Blood’ benefits greatly from the personable gamine charm of Parillaud, who makes Marie surely one of the most appealing film vampires ever. Her presence and Landis’ well-calibrated balance of fear, affection and matter-of-fact clowning make ‘Innocent Blood’ worth watching -- more than once.