Quick! Name the first Vampire movie that pops into your head. Mine would be Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter, but that's only because I haven't been able to get that title out of my mind. More on that in the coming weeks when I actually watch and review this.
Now, name your FAVORITE Vampire movie, not including Nosferatu or Browning's original Dracula. I want to see your answers posted in the comments, so don't be shy. It's ok if you're not a "poster" and would like to remain anonymous. I dig. Be honest. I want the first movie you thought of AND your favorite. They may even be the same film. Anyway, mine would be a little film from 1987 called Near Dark (directed by James Cameron's ex-wife, Kathryn Bigelow and starring such Alien's alumnus as Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, and Jenette Goldstein). What can I say?
I love it when genre films get blended together. Near Dark was a modern day western. With Vampires. Traditional gothic trappings were discarded in favor of dusty roads and shitkickers. If you have not seen this movie, or saw it as a kid but don't remember loving it, do yourself a favor and rent this immediately.
So, it was with no trepidation that I moved Innocent Blood to the top of my queue. You see, the gangster genre is another of my favorites. I'm pretty amazed that it's taken me this long to get to it, to be honest. It also features my favorite pre-Audrey Tatou french actress, Anne Parrilaud (La Femme Nikita) as the sexiest female vamp since Monica Belluci bared all in Bram Stoker's Dracula.
The movie is basically a hodge podge of Italian (read Gangster) character actors including, but not limited to David Proval (The Sopranos), Rocco Sisto (The Sopranos), Robert Loggia (The Sopranos), Tony Sirico (The Sopranos), and Tony Lip (The Sopranos). Ok, not all of the actors in this film were type cast. Let's run down THAT list, shall we? Chazz Palmienterri (A Bronx Tale), Anthony LaPaglia (The Brotherhood), Luiz Guzman (Carlito's Way), and Don Rickles (Casino). Admittedly, Guzman was previously cast in Carlito's Way as a hispanic gangster because, well, he's hispanic. He gets to plays a cop in this movie. LaPaglia plays an undercover cop who just has to pretend to be a gangster. Rickles? Well, he plays Don Rickles....only if Don Rickles were a consigliere for the head of the Pittsburgh mob.
Did I say Pittsburgh? Yup, this movie takes place in the 'burgh. I was unaware of their large Italian mafia problem...and even more unaware of their vampire problem, but more on that in a bit.
Who directed this? That would be John Landis (previously discussed in my Big Bad Wolf review). This is his second foray into "creature features", the first being An American Werewolf. Well, if you count Michael Jackson's Thriller video, then this is his third. Landis has a tendency to try to lighten the scares in his horror movies by injecting humor into them. It worked brilliantly in American Werewolf, but not as brilliantly here. This is actually more of a straight up comedy (with moments of some pretty fun gore) and on that level, I really enjoyed it.
Anne Parrilaud plays a lonely vampire named Marie. Marie likes to hang around churches (debunked myth?) and take showers at the YMCA. She robs thrift stores to fill out her wardrobe. Like most urban vampires, she's pretty much homeless and penniless. And also hungry. Flipping through the papers one evening, trying to come up with some food ideas (you see, she's a good vampire and won't just eat anyone), she comes across some headlines on mob violence. Her voiceover? "What about Italian?"
Anthony LaPaglia plays her love interest Joey. He's a tough italian cop who infiltrates the gang of Sal "The Shark" Macelli (Robert Loggia), but he's pretty much outed as a rat immediately. Chaz Palmienterri plays Joey's best friend Tony (who seems to be a low level enforcer, probably the guy that vouched for Joey). Tony is also Marie's first meal. Marie has two rules for eating. 1) Never play with the food. 2) Always finish the food. First she drains Tony's blood, then she finished it by blowing off his head with a shotgun. Now, to the cops this looks like an ordinary mob hit. Marie doesn't even think about this, however. Her reason for finishing "the food" is so it doesn't come back.
Well, her next target is Sal. Guess what, she neglects to finish him AND he comes back and proceeds to turn his gang into the undead. It's up to Marie and Joey (yeah, of course they team up) to stop him.
Loggia is hysterical as Sal. When he comes back, he comes back in hilarious fashion. He's been taken to the morgue (completely drained of blood, no chance he's alive). He's on the table prepped for his autopsy when suddenly he stands up. The medical examiner (Frank Oz) drops his instruments. The stunned security guard asks if he would "maybe like to go back and lie down". Sal then stumbles into the background of the press conference where the coroner is telling the press he's dead. When he has the autopsy results, he'll get back to them. Get off his fucking back! The press quickly forgets about the poor coroner and instead hurries after Sal. If one thing Sal (always the stereotypical gangster) cannot abide it's a messy suit. That might be a problem when you're a member of the bloodsucking undead. He's constantly changing suits and exclaims after one kill "This shirt is disgusting!" He really gets upset after having been set on fire. "WHAT you've KILLED here is my fucking suit!" He's a funny guy, that Loggia. Much funnier than he was in Scarface....or Lost Highway. (He played Gangsters in both of those).
Another character I liked is Sal's lawyer/consigliere Manny Bergman. This character reminded me of Don Rickles. He was also played by Don Rickles. Rickles is given perhaps the greatest death scene of 1992. Having been "turned" by his employer Sal, he is taken to the hospital for a blood transfusion. The nurse comes in to check on him and then goes to open the blinds. He wakes up, now a vampire, and gets ready to attack her. In the instant before, she opens the blinds and lets the sunlight in. I won't spoil the rest, but it's a lot of fun. He melts.
This picture does not strictly adhere to vampirology, I don't believe. First of all, I never noticed any fangs. They could have been there, but me, being a lazy movie watcher that night, just didn't notice. Second, they could see themselves in mirrors. This actually was the source of a pretty funny joke. Everytime Marie kills someone, she would happen to look into a mirror and see her blood soaked face. She'd immediately go all feral on us and destroy the mirrors with both fists in disgust. That's pretty clever, right? Third, crucifixes do jack shit in this movie & like I said before, Marie spends a lot of time in churches. She even meets Joey (LaPaglia, remember him) while flying around in one. Fourth, it's never clear if she can change into a bat or not. I don't think she can & certainly none of the gangster vampires can, but she can at least fly. They all have heightened senses (smell, hearing, orgasming, etc). Fifth, I don't think stakes through the heart will do much. It's pretty clear that this movie is trying to establish a new method for slaughtering vampires. Stakes are for fences. You need a good shotgun blast to the head. I just got an idea for a movie. Ash (Evil Dead) takes on Dracula. Say hello to my boomstick! Nah, just kidding. Really stupid idea.
All you gorehounds, keep an eye open for some pretty nice cameos in this one. Sam Raimi (Evil Dead I-III and something called Spiderman I-III) appears as a Meat packer, employed in one of Sal's meat packing plants. Tom Savini has a couple cameos as a tabloid photographer. Dario Argento (do I mention him every posting?) plays a male nurse. Heh heh. Alfred Hitchcock even has a cameo and he WAS dead. Well, his cameo is actually a cameo within a scene from another movie, "Strangers on a Train", but it's clear Landis has a hard on for cameos.
Back to Parillaud. I love her. I could listen to her struggle to read the phone book in english for at least an hour. She's sexy and has that short punky late 80s early 90s haircut that you all know I love so much. I swear, I do. She also looks great naked. The only thing I don't like about her is the mannish demon voice that comes out whenever she gets angry. If we're going to date, that's something she'll have to work on because, believe me, she WILL get angry. Perhaps, she'll agree to a gag? It's already been established that she's into handcuffs, so why not. Hmmmm, I think I might be onto something....and maybe I can even talk her into a three way with Monica Bell.....Oh....wait, are you still here? Ahem, I don't really have anything more to add about this film. It is what it is. A funny gangster movie. Way funnier than Analyze This or That. It also happens to have vampires. You'll laugh, but you won't jump. What else can I say. Now, If you'll excuse me, I've got to go google my new girlfriend.