Horror has finally seeped much more overtly into superhero cinema between the upcoming Moon Knight, Morbius, Werewolf by Night, and an MCU update on Blade. But perhaps they all owe a debt to the early pioneers and one particular box office juggernaut. A decade before Iron Man effectively launched the ever-expanding MCU as we know it, changing the landscape of superheroes in cinema, there was the R-rated Blade, a half-vampire antihero with a massive grudge. Even after amassing an extensive catalog of superhero movies and series to choose from in the decades since release, none so far has managed to rival the show-stopping entrance of Blade (Wesley Snipes) and the blood rave it brings along with it.
After a brief scene of a woman giving birth after enduring a vampire attack, Blade opens to a couple racing to an underground rave tucked away in a meat-packing plant. The woman, Racquel (Traci Lords), guides her awestruck date (Kenny Johnson) through the heavy crowds to the middle of the dance floor. Racquel quickly ditches him for a more assertive dance partner, who shoves him aside. The unwitting meal has just enough time to realize his error in judgement when he notices a drop of blood that’d fallen into his palm. The overhead sprinklers kick on, spraying the dance floor and its eager inhabitants in a thick coating of blood.
Through viscous blood-soaked eyes, the poor date slowly realizes that ravenous fanged ravers surround him. He’s battered and thrown around in attempts to flee until he crawls straight into the boots of Blade. The hunters become the hunted as the leather-clad daywalker pulls out a shotgun and starts plowing his way through the horde.
Written by David S. Goyer and directed by Stephen Norrington, Blade‘s iconic blood rave introduction creates a stylish tone that makes it clear this won’t be your average Gothic vampire flick. Cinematographer Theo van de Sande employed a special anamorphic-lens camera that allowed hand-held shots to capture the action. A strobe light was also attached to the camera, enhancing the scene’s tension and giving a starker contrast with the blood. Considering the sheer volume of blood spray, the technical precision that went into this blood rave sequence is, pardon the pun, a marvel.
Narratively, this frenetic opening is a quick plunge into the deep end of an already established world. It doesn’t take long for the viewer to realize that Racquel’s date is in over his head, and his date ramps up from bad to worse in a dizzying way. That doomed feeling reaches a fever pitch when the date confusingly tries to determine the red substance on his fingers while the crowd eagerly reaches up for the rain of blood behind him. Blade’s arrival just as the man’s about to succumb to a feeding frenzy halts the intense scene in its tracks.
This memorable introduction conveys everything you need to know about the character. Snipes imbues Blade with a no-nonsense stoicism with one key exception: he lives for and revels in slaying vampires. He takes on a horde of blood-covered vampires with ease and stops to give himself a proud fist pump for nailing vampire enforcer Quinn (Donal Logue) to the wall with a stake. It’s a rare glimpse of humor for an otherwise straightforward character embittered by his half-vampire status. When the cops arrive, Blade vanishes, sending the clear message that the daywalker doesn’t care much for the human world either.
The technical prowess on display dramatically heightens the stylish, blood-drenched introduction to a Marvel antihero. It visually spells out all we need to know about the character at the story’s outset. It’s an iconic grand entrance, one that instantly comes to mind when mentioning the original Blade trilogy. Even though superhero fare has become far more mainstream and commonplace since Blade‘s 1998 release, the blood rave scene remains an unmatched standout.
Scene Screams is a recurring column that spotlights the scenes in horror that make us scream, whether through fear, laughter, or tears. It examines the most memorable, and often scariest, scenes in horror and what it is about them that makes them get under our skin.