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Rise: Blood Hunter — Lucy Liu's Throwback Vampire Flick That’s Dead Serious

Lucy Liu’s no angel as a baby vamp who’s on a mission to kill.

By Benjamin Bullard
Sadie Blake (Lucy Liu) touches a gash in her neck in Rise: Blood Hunter (2007).

Even when following ironclad, rules-bound literary lore tradition, vampire movies are amazingly versatile things. Not necessarily constrained by just a single genre, a good fanger flick might saunter into theaters with 1980s teenage misfit vibes (like The Lost Boys), a carnivorous comedic streak (like Nicolas Cage in Renfield), or a properly gothic swirl of brooding atmosphere (like Werner Herzog’s incredible Nosferatu the Vampyre from 1979, streaming on Peacock here).

Rise: Blood Hunter (streaming on Peacock here) takes a vertically-sliced bite out of the broader vampire tradition it taps into, zeroing in on a single supernatural episode in the lives (or perhaps the un-deaths) of a small but close-knit group of depraved urban blood-suckers. Lucy Liu stars as a baby vamp who’s out for vengeance after waking to discover that she’s been turned against her will, giving Rise a sort of two-for-one story bargain — one part revenge tale, one part human tragedy — in the process.

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Rise: Blood Hunter — Vampire Lucy Liu is no angel

A bloody Sadie Blake (Lucy Liu) feeds on a victim in Rise: Blood Hunter (2007).

“Supernatural episode” might be more than just a casual description, because watching Rise (released in 2007) feels a whole lot like watching an R-rated episode of vintage Supernatural (which debuted in 2005) — only with far less comic relief and, for its time, far bigger stars. There’s a slow-burn procedural quality to Rise: Blood Hunter’s taut vignette of a story, which unfolds over the course of only a few short days as anti-hero Sadie (Liu), the movie’s recently-turned vamp victim, picks up a magic crossbow and stakes out her aggressors with stone-cold vengeance on her mind.

Liu plays Sadie, a formerly upbeat and hip alt-weekly news reporter who’s been suddenly jarred into a dead-serious game of vampire cat-and-mouse. From the time she wakes up alone in the morgue and realizes (in the movie’s most ingenious scene) that she’s absolutely, positively a vampire, Sadie’s all business and very matter-of-fact about leaving her human life behind. Unimpressed at the thought of living forever, she simply wants to track down her vampire attackers and kill them with her magic weapon — and then hopefully find a way to end her own vampire life as well.

To do that, she has to piece together how her human self died in the first place, and it all tracks back to a close cabal of Gen-X Draculas slumming it up in the vacant spaces of L.A. — you know, the kind of très cool 20- and 30-somethings who like to incorporate a little sex and blood ritual into every fresh kill. A typically charming vampire heartthrob named Bishop (played by James D’Arcy) is their final-boss ringleader, as Sadie discovers after grilling Eve (Carla Gugino), one of Bishop’s femme fatale vampire deputies.

Sadie Blake (Lucy Liu) points a weapon in Rise: Blood Hunter (2007).

Thanks to the movie’s span-of-days story, it’s easy to track Sadie’s every vengeful step without losing the larger plot. She begrudgingly joins forces with a bereaved L.A. cop (Michael Chiklis), a guy who’s just lost his own daughter to Bishop and, understandably, is more than willing to bend police procedure to exact his own revenge. Beyond her payback mission, Sadie wants no part of a life that feeds on the blood of others, and demands that her cop colleague kill her, in turn, once Bishop and his gang have been dealt with.

Will he or won’t he? We’re not here to give away endings, though it’s probably worth mentioning that Rise: Blood Hunter (which underperformed at the box office in the first place) doesn’t exactly set itself up for a logical sequel in the same way that, oh, let’s say Blade does. But at least Liu fully commits to following her character’s grave and single-minded new life path, with nary a trace of the whimsy or comedic lilt that had bolstered her already-cemented star status in fun flicks like Charlie’s Angels (2000).

Fun fact: Director Sebastian Gutierrez persuaded several stars into brief but neat screen turns in Rise: Blood Hunter, including an early flyby by the late, great Robert Forster, as well as a later small role from Elden Henson. The biggest by far, though, is a head-turning appearance from a (mostly) makeup-free Marilyn Manson, sporting a beard and slingin’ drinks as the soft-spoken human bartender whom Sadie hits up (aka bribes) for some vital underground vampire intel.

Catch Rise: Blood Hunter, streaming on Peacock here.

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