In which BW culture editor Paul Barndt indulges a taste for blood and gore.

bladeYou may have caught Pan’s Labyrinth, a violent fairy tale set in fascist Spain written and directed by Guillermo del Toro. It has a good shot at the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar this year, and I, for one, am a big fan. But regardless of your taste for bizarre dreamlike monsters, you should see Blade II, del Toro’s second best movie–and his most exciting.

Blade is an obscure Marvel comic book character who is half-human, half-vampire. Wearing a leather trenchcoat, dark sunglasses, a belt of silver stakes, and a giant sword across his back, he kills vampires. Wesley Snipes has played Blade in all three movies (steer clear of Blade: Trinity), and he really inhabits the character—he takes it dead seriously.  As his bloodthirsty foes are fond of saying, “He has all our strengths, none of our weaknesses!” I enjoyed the Blade the first, but del Toro and the screenwriters totally blow it out of the water—Blade II is an order of magnitude bigger and leaner.

This time, Blade isn’t just fighting vampires—he has to team up with the vampires to fight mutant super vampires that feed on other vampires. They’re bald, jaundiced, emaciated creatures that call to mind Max Schreck in Nosferatu. In the first movie, vampires’ corpses smoldered to ash; this time, they burst into showers of spark and flame, and the super vampires explode-die even bigger. Blade’s uneasy vampire allies, the Bloodpack, are a shamelessly motley crew. There’s Jigsaw, a mute Asian guy with a sword, Lighthammer, a vaguely Native American bruiser with body tattoos and a spiky hammer, and Verlaine, his red-bobbed Eurotrash girlfriend. Their leader is Reinhardt, a beefy skinhead who makes really bad racist jokes—you’re immediately looking forward his inevitable death scene. The story is loopy, but not hard to follow, and that’s what matters: just enough stuff happening for Blade to up the body count in creative ways.

Squirmy, gross-out violence typifies del Toro’s movies, and while it’s used to unsettling, dizzying effect in Pan’s Labyrinth, the gore and gristle are a natural fit for the Blade universe. My favorite is an extended mutant vampire autopsy, complete with churning fluids and puckering organs. And all this without a hint of a love story…what more could you ask for?