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WTF Moment: Blade II's sadomasochistic rave scene in the House of Pain
Before the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there were the Blade movies — films in which Wesley Snipes plays the eponymous Marvel character, a half-human/half-vampire daywalker whose mission in life is to be cool and kill vampires. The first movie was a cult success when it came out in 1998, so it was only natural that a sequel, Blade II, hit theaters four years later...
Blade II boasts Guillermo del Toro's directorial talents, though this was in the early years of his career. Del Toro had three films under his belt (Cronos, the critically acclaimed The Devil's Backbone, and the not-so-great cockroach-based thriller, Mimic), and his reign as an Oscar-winning filmmaker was still far on the horizon.
Even so, del Toro's burgeoning mastery of the monstrous is apparent in Blade II, which is arguably gorier than the first movie. Del Toro's signature touch is most obvious with the Reapers, an uber-vampire race who sport peel-away faces and a long, tentacle-like tongue — an early ancestor of later del Toro creations like the vampires in FX's The Strain and the iconic monsters from his Hellboy movies. The Reapers are so nasty, in fact, that they force a reluctant Blade and his sidekick (played by a very young Norman Reedus) to temporarily join forces with a kill-tastic squad of regular vampires (members of which include a vampiric Ron Perlman and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story's Donnie Yen), who have been trying to kill the daywalker for years.
There are several scenes in Blade II that could qualify as "WTF Moments" (the autopsy of a recently-dead Reaper comes to mind, for one). But it's an early scene of Blade walking through the techno-blaring vampire club, House of Pain, that lets us know that vampires — even the vampires we're supposedly supposed to be rooting for — are seriously effed up.
In this scene, del Toro has the camera follow Blade's view of House of Pain as the vampire hunter taking in the chaotic thrashing of the crowd under the club's strobing lights with his trademark chillness. And there's a lot to take in. Blade's mouth, however, doesn't even twitch as he watches the vampires sadomasochistically making out with razor blades and flaying themselves open to the bone (you know, for kicks).
The biggest WTF moment of the scene occurs when the camera pauses on one vampire's back, which another vampire — like a mediocre middle school student dissecting a frog — has sliced and open and peeled back the skin to reveal the spine. The dissector, still poking around his partner's vertebrae, turns to the camera and gives a look of mild interest while the vampire with the flayed-open back gives a suggestive smirk. It's this smirk that's so unsettling (though the image of a "living" vampire's skin peeled back is pretty effed up as well). These club goers are enthusiastically undergoing violent acts that would kill mere mortals. It's a reminder that we're not playing by human rules anymore — we're in the world of the monstrous, a place where monstrous creatures (regular old vampires) are being preyed upon by something even more monstrous (the Reapers).
And Blade walks comfortably through this world; it's one he's used to, even though he might despise it. And it's our walk with him through the House of Pain that makes the regular vampires' betrayal of Blade later in the movie so unsurprising. We come to understand what Blade already knew — there can be no long-term truce between vampires and humans. For Blade, there is too much that separates the two, even though he occupies the untenable space between them.