Monday, June 23, 2008

Innocent Blood – review


Director: John Landis

Release Date: 1992

Contains spoilers

I want to tell you a tale that may well be nothing but apocryphal by its ending. Back in 1992 I hired a film, entitled Innocent Blood, from the video store. I thought a great many things about it – things that I am sure to tease out during this review – but one thing that struck me was the fact that I couldn’t understand why the film had a 15 rating… surely with the combination of full frontal nudity (albeit briefly), bondage orientated sex, flashes of violence and bursts of gore it should be an 18? Nevertheless I was going to buy it on sell through.

Sell through never came. It was ever available on VHS (to my knowledge) nor, years later, on DVD either. It is available in the States but not in the UK. Then I was speaking to a friend who seemed to know why (cue the apocryphal aspect). The BBFC had made a mistake. They had given it a 15 rating in error. They realised their mistake and asked the production company to uprate the film to an 18, the company refused – stating that the BBFC had made their decision. A stalemate occurred and the knock on effect is that the film was never released in the UK to buy. Is that true? I really don’t know, but it makes a nice opening to the review.

Anne Parillaud as MarieDirector John Landis had previously made An American Werewolf in London (1981) and this is one of the problems with this film. AAWIL is one of the finest horror comedies produced – let’s face it, it is freaky genius. This film never reaches that level and one cannot help but compare. Of course, the focus this time is vampires and, at the head of the film, Marie (Anne Parillaud). She is somewhat choosy about her food, however, as she says herself in voice over “When you are alone eternally, you live for the comfort of the senses: food, sex. I'd become very selective and it was getting harder for me to find food, even living in the city. My choosiness about food cost me my lover, and without him there is no sex.” She decides, after 6 days of fasting, that she will have Italian.

smashing a mirrorIt should be noted here that Marie has a reflection – Landis does do something clever with the reflection rule as we shall see.

Joe (Anthony LaPaglia) and Tony (Chazz Palminteri) are a couple of wise guys in a diner, tasked with taking a fellow crook down into the lair of crime boss Sallie ‘The Shark’ Macelli (Robert Loggia) for a private audience. Sal is not happy, a consignment of toast-r-ovens has been stolen and he hasn’t had his cut. Loggia plays a figure of barely bridled violence and, as he looses it, Joe becomes concerned – this was meant to be a ‘sit down’ but it is clear that the guy is going to die.

Anthony LaPaglia as JoeHe tries to intervene and Sal tells Joe to finish the guy. When he hesitates Sal does it himself and then turns on Joe, only calmed by Tony. Outside the diner Tony cautions Joe – eventually Sal will order a hit and Joe will have to pull the figures. Joe is a thief not a shooter but in Sal’s new order everyone is a shooter. Joe takes the gun and smashes a window of a nearby police stake out truck and Tony tells him to go home and clear his head.

eyes glow redGetting to his car, Joe bumps into Marie and, when helping her with her shoe, she sizes him up as food. He has potential but sad eyes. Rule number one – never play with your food. She then orchestrates her way into Tony’s car and has him drive her to a ‘lookout point’ where they start to get it on and we get the feed – and what a feed. Her eyes turn red and then she strikes.

brutal attack and feedThis is a vampire movie without fangs and she rips a chunk from his neck with her teeth. The feed is a frenzy and one of the highpoints of the movie for my money. When she is done she sees her bloodstained face in the mirror and smashes the offending looking glass – it is not that vampires don’t reflect, but Marie dislikes what she sees after a kill. She cleans herself up and then cleans up her mess – using gunshot to hide the wound and sever the central nervous system (rule number two). Vampires in this are killed with a break in the nervous system – a bullet in the brain or a broken neck will do it.

The next day the police are at Tony’s car and Joe is there asking questions of the medical examiner. It seems that there isn’t enough blood and it is also apparent that Joe is an undercover cop. US Attorney Sinclair (Angela Bassett) is somewhat unhappy with Joe for breaking cover and wants him off the case. When he argues against this she ensures that the press get his picture with her – forcing the issue. Joe is moved into protective custody.

attacking the sharkSal is not a happy mobster and his mood is no better when he catches Lenny (David Proval) talking to some broad. That broad happens to be Marie and, after verbally abusing her, Sal then offers to take her for dinner. She knows she shouldn’t but he has annoyed her. At his safe house we discover two things, in respect of lore, vampires dislike bright light of any kind and garlic works against them. However, she manages to attack Sal but he fires his gun and, with Lenny coming to the rescue, she is unable to break his neck.

Sal becomes undead and starts turning his mobsters. Joe and Marie are forced to work together to end the nightmare – but first they have to learn to trust each other.

destroyed by sunlightThe film is referential, with TVs showing old monster movies. Two are vampiric and we are treated to moments of the 1931 Dracula and Horror of Dracula. It also has a couple of outstanding moments. We have already mentioned the initial feed scene and there is the moment that we discover that sunlight is most definitely effective when it comes to killing vampires. Lawyer Manny (Don Rickles) is Sal’s first bite – it should be noted that when first turned the vampires look like Hell and come into full power at the first feed, regaining a human look – and is in hospital. He turns just as a nurse opens the curtains. He doesn’t burst into flames but more accurately burns from the inside out, skin cracking to reveal an almost magma look, one nurse is left holding an internally combusting arm that breaks away from his torso.

waking in the morgueMy favourite moment in the film is when Sal wakes up confused, and impaled with a liver thermometer, in the morgue – much to the consternation of the pathologist (Frank Oz). However the scene isn’t perfect. Whilst funny, it had so much comic potential that was left untapped and this is the problem with the flick. Too much a comedy to be a horror but not comedic enough compared to AAWIL.

Sal eats MannyThe effects are excellent – I loved the way the eyes would turn a variety of colours. The cast is strong and special mention to Loggia who is perfectly cast as Sal. The soundtrack works – it has a variety of Sinatra tracks, which is fitting – yet is never quite as genius as the AAWIL soundtrack. A good, solid flick but it could have been so much better. 6.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


Paul said...

Apocrypal nod apreciated...

The film was released on VHS, allbeit very briefly before being withdrawn.. Im clearing some space in the attic so if you want the VHS with its original BBFC 15 rating you're more than welcome buddy..

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Paul, glad you could mosey on over. Always glad to have a vampire oddity as you know... cheers

Dave said...

The coolest scene I remember was when Joe and Marie are in bed and her eyes are strobing colors as she struggles to keep from feeding on him.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

I liked what they did with the eyes in this generally. cheers for the comment Dave.