Horror has finally seeped much more openly into superhero cinema between the next Moon Knight, Morbius, night werewolfand an MCU update on Blade. But perhaps they all owe a debt to the early trailblazers and one box office juggernaut in particular. 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 anti-hero with a huge grudge. Even after amassing a vast catalog of superhero films and series to choose from over the decades since its release, none so far have managed to match Blade’s spectacular entry (Wesley Snipes) and the blood rave it brings with it.
After a brief scene of a woman giving birth after suffering a vampire attack, Blade opens with a couple rushing to an underground rave tucked away in a meatpacking plant. The wife, Racquel (Traci Lords), guides his amazed rendezvous (Kenny Johnson) through the crowd to the middle of the dance floor. Racquel quickly abandons him for a more assertive dance partner, who pushes him aside. The involuntary meal barely has time to realize his error in judgment when he notices a drop of blood falling into his palm. The overhead sprinklers kick in, drenching the dance floor and its eager inhabitants with a thick layer of blood.
Through slimy blood-soaked eyes, the poor date slowly realizes that voracious fanged raves surround him. He is beaten and thrown in attempts to flee until he crawls right into Blade’s boots. The hunters become the hunted as the leather-clad walker pulls out a shotgun and begins to smash his way through the horde.
Written by David S. Goyer and led by Stephen Norrington, Bladeit’s Blood Rave’s iconic intro sets an elegant tone that makes it clear that this won’t be your average goth vampire flick. Director of Photography Theo van de Sande used a special anamorphic lens camera that allowed handheld shots to capture the action. A strobe light was also attached to the camera, heightening the tension of the scene and giving a sharper contrast to the blood. Considering the volume of blood sprayed, the technical precision that went into this blood rave sequence is, pardon the pun, a marvel.
Narratively, this frenetic opening is a rapid dive into the depths 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 goes from bad to worse in a dizzying fashion. This doomed feeling comes to a head when the date confusedly tries to determine the red substance on his fingers as the crowd eagerly searches for the rain of blood behind him. Blade’s arrival just as the man is about to succumb to a feeding frenzy stops the intense scene in its tracks.
This memorable intro conveys everything you need to know about the character. Snipes imbues Blade with no-frills stoicism, with one exception: he lives and enjoys killing vampires. He easily takes on a horde of blood-covered vampires and stops to give himself a proud fist-pump to nail vampire enforcer Quinn (Donald Loge) 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 disappears, sending the clear message that the walker doesn’t care about the human world either.
The technical prowess on display greatly bolsters the sleek and bloody introduction of a Marvel anti-hero. It visually spells out everything we need to know about the character at the start of the story. It’s a great iconic entry, which immediately comes to mind when mentioning the original Blade trilogy. Even though superhero fare has become much more common and mainstream since Bladeit’s Released in 1998, the Blood Rave scene remains an unrivaled standout.
Stage screams is a recurring column that shines a light on the horror scenes that make us scream, whether through fear, laughter or tears. It examines the most memorable and often chilling horror scenes and what makes them get under our skin.