In the 90’s vampire films became much more than horror. Alongside the romantic and sympathetic attitude of Anne Rice’s Interview, Blade introduced the vampire action flick. Featuring Wesley Snipes as the half-human, half-vampire, finally, there was a vampire movie with a black lead that didn’t have “Blacula” in the title.
Based on a Marvel comic book character first introduced in the 70’s, Blade possesses the supernatural strength and speed of a vampire but is immune to most of their weaknesses like sunlight or garlic. Created when a vampire attacked his pregnant mother, Blade wages a war fighting to release humanity from the secret rule of the vampire masters. In the first film he is introduced through the eyes of Dr. Karen Jenson (N’Bushe Wright,) a doctor who is forced into the world of vampires and hunters when she is bitten by one of Blade’s quarry. Earning his acceptance with her stubborn refusal to hide on the sidelines, they discover a plot by vampire leader Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff) to use vampiric magic to make himself a god. With the help of Whistler’s (Kris Kristofferson) anti-vampire weaponry and some martial arts throw-downs they face off against the vampire menace.
Snipes played the role with a cool and hard-edged aplomb which, while suiting the film interpretation of the character, allowed him to be upstaged by the more entertaining Deacon Frost, or hilariously foul-mouthed Whistler. This is a sharp contrast from the Blade of his comic book appearances but is more in line in keeping with the stoic action anti-hero of the 90’s.
The new traditions of vampire cinema have continued through two decades now. With Blade sequels and television shows, Milla Jovovich in Ultraviolet, Daybreakers, and the Underworld series having just released its fourth film, the vampire as super hero is here to stay.